Caring and Dementia

Nature in Dementia Care

We have been receiving such positive feedback from our book. Now in various states of Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Hong Kong, India, The Netherlands and Italy. A recent story from Australia includes a lady who is using it in caring for her husband who lives with Alzheimer’s. Each day she now encourages him to water their pots and tend to their plants. She is now planning to buy more books to share with other friends. This is heartwarming as originally the book was designed to assist people training in Horticultural Therapy and then we realised the potential to assist many others.

Recognising the growing numbers of people affected by dementia I share this personal story hoping it will help others. My mother was diagnosed with dementia approximately eleven years ago. During this time we have continued to care for her at home with the wonderful support services of Hammond Care. This connection with her family and environment has been fundamental to her care. That daily visit to her garden brings a sense of peace. Just observing what is in flower, picking the odd damaged leaf or spent flower, hearing the birds, collecting a bunch of colour for a vase brings joy. Harvesting fresh greens from the garden, regularly picking bunches of parsley and lettuce, to bring healthy food to the table.

This ongoing connection is vital.

Like so many from her generation she has grown up with gardens. Born into a family of green thumbs they collected orchids, cacti, bred day lilies, hippeastrums and surrounded themselves with plants. My mother June’s key hobbies were gardening and art. As her dementia has progressed and she now needs guidance and support for each of her daily activities, having easy access to her garden is calming.

I appreciate every dementia journey is different. The changes within a person even throughout the course of  a day are significant. However understanding how reducing stress can help to reduce the impacts of dementia, reinforces the importance to push through the many challenges towards providing activities for daily quality of life. As well as gardens we combine a range of options in nature: with regular short walks near the ocean and lake, visits to plant nurseries and art galleries.

The garden is often brought inside with bunches of fresh flowers. She can’t walk past her brightly coloured geraniums without picking a few to place in a cup or anything she can find. She lives in the present moment, observing closely the movement of wind through the leaves and life in the garden.

In reflecting on my mother’s story I genuinely believe through keeping active combined with her connection with nature has slowed her decline”.   

As a carer I appreciate the need and benefits from these connections for our personal health and well-being. Taking a deep breath in nature helps to put life into perspective. Making time for your own personal time gardening and exercising outdoors helps to keep positive. Often our own emotions and positivity are reflected in the person in care….

Having worked in other settings with people living with dementia it is always heartwarming to see the satisfaction they experience from participating in simple gardening activities. Decorating pots and potting plants is always a favourite. Whatever we choose the method is the same … add joy in our voice, love in our eyes, a smile and patience in our manner”

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