Why gardening does wonders for people with dementia

May 18, 2018
Gardening has many benefits for dementia sufferers. Source: Pexels

There’s nothing quite like the joy of gardening in the fresh air. Working in a garden can be therapeutic for the mind, body and soul — and has been increasingly recognised as a way to improve the health and wellbeing of people with dementia.

This peaceful activity has a wide range of social, mental and physical benefits that can have a positive impact on their quality of life. Here’s how gardening can help those suffering from the disease.

Mental and cognitive benefits

Dementia is characterised by the progressive decline of memory and intellectual functions, communication skills, and the ability to think logically. Alongside this decline, individuals with dementia may develop a range of psychological and behavioural symptoms like aggression, depression and wandering. This makes it difficult to carry out normal everyday tasks and activities and maintain independence. Gardening can ease these symptoms in some ways, helping dementia patients to feel and function better in everyday life.

The calm of nature can automatically make you feel more relaxed and positive. This is particularly important for dementia patients who need to relieve stress and agitation. Gardening can provide a great escape, helping their minds and bodies to feel calm and relaxed. The process of gardening also gives dementia patients the much-needed opportunity to engage in activities independently and regain confidence. It allows them to take ownership of their plants, express their individuality and creativity, and experience the satisfaction of their garden coming to life. This process of caring for something over time can also help improve their attention span and ability to maintain skills and interests.

Improved physical health

Gardening also addresses the physical needs of people suffering from dementia. Like any other person, a patient with dementia needs to exercise regularly to keep their energy levels up, and gardening provides a great reason to move around. Better yet, exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good, helping to manifest a more positive outlook on daily life.

Working in a garden is an excellent way to get dementia patients active outdoors. Gardening is a fun form of aerobic exercise that can incorporate elements of a moderate to intense fitness routine, such as stretching, pulling, pushing and lifting. These movements use multiple muscles at once, helping to improve stamina, flexibility, balance, strength and overall energy. The resultant boost in energy levels also allows dementia patients to work up an appetite and get a better night’s sleep, which will positively impact their mood and wellbeing.

Social benefits

The social benefits of gardening are invaluable for individuals suffering from dementia. A garden is an outdoor sanctuary where dementia patients can bond with others in a relaxed, non-institutional environment. Gardening as a shared social activity creates a strong sense of community, helping to reduce isolation and loneliness. Regularly interacting with new people can also help improve communication skills and strengthen social relationships.

How you can set up a gardening space

If you’re a caregiver or loved one of somebody with dementia, consider gardening as a regular activity. A successful garden for dementia patients has specific areas that promote different sensory experiences, including both shaded areas and areas to walk in the sun. Gardens are best filled with variety — mixing different flowers, produce, and green plants.

Ensure your garden design is as comfortable and safe as possible for older dementia patients, with garden paths that are easy to walk on, and as clear as possible of hazards like sprinklers or wire netting.

Do you know someone with dementia? Do they enjoy gardening?

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