Most of us acknowledge that being in nature and spending quality time outside is beneficial to our health. What is less clear is how it can help people with dementia, especially those whose quality of life has suffered as a result of their diagnosis. We’ve worked in collaboration with Thrive – an organisation dedicated to changing people’s lives through gardening – to produce this article surrounding gardening and dementia. Check out their article, ‘Gardening for Dementia,’ here.
A Little Bit About Dementia
As the life expectancy in the UK increases, so does the number of people with dementia. Current figures for individuals with dementia stand at 900,000, with it being predicted to reach 1 million by 2025.
So, how can we improve our well-being? Gardening and dementia have been said to have a correlation on patients’ overall health and outlook on life.
“I love it here, it’s so open and makes me feel at peace and relaxed.”
– gardener, dementia-friendly allotment Bristol
There are numerous types of dementia. Whilst the majority of individuals with dementia are over the age of 65, early-onset dementia can affect people much younger.
Additionally, symptoms can differ from one person to another. Memory loss tends to be frequently associated with dementia, but changes in mood and communication abilities are also significant symptoms of dementia.
The Focus on Gardening with Dementia Patients
Dementia manifests itself in stages, with more research needed to determine how the benefits of spending time in nature vary depending on the stage of the condition. A study by Natural England reports that engaging in outdoor activities that have a purpose, especially when it involves other people, provides the most motivation for people living with dementia.
It also states that only 20% of people living with dementia thought their condition was a barrier to using outdoor spaces, whereas 83% of caregivers thought dementia limited the person’s ability.
Conversely, research indicates that approximately two-thirds of people with dementia are in the early stages and live in their own homes. This makes direct exposure to gardens and nature at home as essential as creating dementia-friendly environments in care homes for those in later stages.
Gardening and Dementia – The Benefits
There are numerous benefits to spending time outdoors. Just a few of them are evident improvements in one’s emotional state, physical health, verbal expression and memory.
When it comes to dementia patients, nature can help them rediscover themselves and connect with others as well as reclaim their sense of self-worth and confidence, and regain control.
Furthermore, gardening is sometimes recommended as part of social prescribing by GPs and others. While the physical benefits are important, the emotional and psychological advantages are equally as essential.
Gardening Can Help Prevent Symptoms of Dementia
Thrive mentions that gardening can be used as a secondary prevention strategy for those in the early stages and with young onset dementia. In addition, it is possible to delay or prevent the effects of dementia by engaging in mentally stimulating activities.
After all, gardening stimulates all of the senses, many of which may have been impacted by dementia, ageing, or having multiple conditions at the same time. Notably, it allows you to plan ahead, even if only by a few weeks or months as plant care entails taking care of something that will grow and bloom in the future.
“I’ve got a fairly large back garden. I thought, if I can learn to do it (garden), then it will keep me occupied, it will keep my mind active and I will get that exercise.”
– Cynthia, Thrive client gardener living with dementia
Gardening Offers an Opportunity to Connect with Others and Yourself
There is an opportunity to form connections when gardening. This could be accomplished by collaborating with others on certain tasks or by collectively basking in the joy of the activity and the results produced.
Furthermore, it provides you with a chance to connect with yourself and nature, allowing you to enjoy mindful moments when you pause to admire your efforts. Not to mention, immersion in nature emphasises how deeply we are connected to the world around us and how critical it is to maintain that connection.
Lastly, individuals who suffer from dementia typically have lower levels of well-being. Gardening can help to increase the number of quality-adjusted life years (QALY).
Gardening and Dementia with Arbour Care
At Arbour Care, we are honoured to provide our residents suffering from dementia –whether they’re in the earlier or later stages– with an opportunity to truly feel more empowered.
Our live in care services are tailored to each and every individual we work with’s needs and requirements. Our live in carers prioritise the complete satisfaction of the client and one of the ways to do that is to surround them with nature.
Rest assured that we will accompany our clients to dementia-friendly gardens that appeal to their senses to aid in their overall health and happiness. If you have any queries regarding our live in care services, please get in touch and a member of our team will be more than happy to help!
Find out more about gardening and dementia from Thrive. If you have any questions for them, do feel free to reach out to them, here.