Therapeutic Garden Activities Help People with Alzheimer's

by Christine Kennard Health Professional

It is amazing to see the change in people with Alzheimer's when you take them outside. People who live in residential homes, or are cared for in their own homes, often respond to a trip out with more socially acceptable behavior.

Everyone likes to do new things. Monotony in care homes can cause behavior problems. Caregivers also need to have new projects as it helps to stay fresh and add motivation, so caring for people outside of the residential environs is often a win-win situation.

I recently read about a care home that created a beach area in their garden. The homecare managers had lots of sand delivered and they got hold of deck chairs, tables and sun-shades. A beach hut completed the feeling of being at the coast. Staff decided the theme should be an Italian holiday, so they played soft relaxing Italian music and made Italian food. It has been a great success.

Gardens need to be made safe. Railing, for example, assists people with poor mobility and wheel chair friendly paths help prevent falls. People who like to wander can be catered for with winding routes in a secure environment. Garden seats give people a place to rest and talk.

Planting needs to be considered too. In the article previously mentioned, the gardener planted edible fragrant herbs. Strawberries and other flowers such as nasturshiums were planted in raised beds. The beds helped guide residents around the garden, allowed them to smell the plants, and gave them the chance to help maintain it.

Gardens provide exercise and opportunities to relieve tension, frustration and aggression. They give residents more space in which they can move about with freedom that gives time for reflection and privacy. They provide people with Alzheimer's the stimulation of color, smells and sounds of wildlife that feed back to past lives and experiences. These types of thoughtful activities increase levels of conversation between residents and better communication between residents and staff.

Research suggests that gardens improve the health of people with dementia. They encourage exercise, stimulate appetite, increase levels of vitamin D, improve mood, relieve stress and provide a shared activity for patients and their relatives.

Routine is important for people who are in the middle and late stages of Alzheimer's, but that does not mean you should avoid new activities or different and stimulating activities.

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Design innovations for ageing and Alzheimer's by Elizabeth Brawley

Christine Kennard
Meet Our Writer
Christine Kennard

Christine Kennard wrote about Alzheimer's for HealthCentral. She has many years of experience in private and public sector nursing care homes for people with dementia. She has worked in a variety of hospital, public and private health settings and specialized in community nursing. Christine is qualified in group analytic psychotherapy, is registered in general and mental health nursing and has a Masters degree.