How to Design a Sensory Garden for Dementia Patients

  29th September, 2022

As we have a few more weeks of summer weather left, we’ve collaborated with experts at Thrive – a charity that promotes wellbeing by working with people living with dementia in gardens – to explain how to design a sensory garden for dementia patients.

Why Create a Sensory Garden for Dementia Patients?

Gardening can be beneficial to both the mind and the body. After all, simply being outside has numerous health benefits.

Additionally, for those suffering from dementia, gardening can be extremely beneficial in terms of keeping the brain active through multi-sensory stimulation. It can help to establish a routine, stimulate the mind and senses, and provide a strong sense of purpose.

However, designing a garden for those with the condition differs from designing your typical plot at home, and there are some additional considerations you’ll need to make. In order to produce this article, we’ve taken into account Thrive’s expert advice on how to create a garden that those living with dementia can truly enjoy safely.

Make It Safe and Accessible

One of the most important factors when creating a sensory garden for dementia patients is that the space is as safe and accessible as possible. Firstly, non-slip pathways and surfaces should be used to reduce the risk of injury from falls. If possible, keep these surfaces all in one colour, as contrasting flooring can appear to those with dementia as steps, which can be a safety hazard.

Secondly, maintain pathways that are wide enough for wheelchairs and at least two people to walk side by side. You should plan to avoid steps whenever possible. Ramps with a gentle incline can be used as a more accessible alternative. Thirdly, we recommend placing signs along paths and pavements to make it easier to navigate the garden.

Make Sure There Are Comfortable Seating Areas

Provide several seating areas so that it is simple and enjoyable to spend time in nature. Additionally, use different features to create focal points for those sitting in these seats to look at and position them so that they are protected from direct sunlight, deep shade, or strong winds.

Create a Sensory Experience

Sensory experiences can help keep dementia patients’ brains active, so try growing plants that can stimulate their senses of touch, sound, smell, taste, and sight.

For example, when it comes to touch, try to avoid thorny plants and opt for soft, velvety leaves instead like the lamb’s ear plant, which has a calming effect. In addition, when it comes to sound, the echo of birds chirping or trickling water features would be your best option.

In terms of smell, not only does lavender attract bees and butterflies, but its delicate scent can really help relax the mind. Furthermore, when it comes to sight, growing a mixture of plants with contrasting colours and shapes is the best way to create a visually stimulating sensory garden for dementia patients.

However, at the same time, we don’t want to add too many different elements to the garden as an abundance of elements in a small space can cause confusion or overwhelm the senses.

Avoid Strong Contrasts

A big part of the illness is that perception issues worsen as dementia progresses. It can be difficult to predict which aspects of a garden will cause problems, which is why it’s crucial to avoid strong contrasts between the elements featured in the sensory garden as it can be disorienting at times.

Keep an eye out for any areas of the garden that may cause confusion, agitation, or pose a safety hazard. Moreover, you may need to make small changes over time to keep the garden as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Building Your Sensory Garden for Dementia Patients

Dementia is one of the most pressing issues confronting our society today. Due to inaccessible and unsupportive environments, people with dementia frequently have to give up activities they want or need to do, including gardening.

Now that you have all the details to create a dementia-friendly sensory garden, there’s nothing left to do but take action and build that dream garden!

If you have any more questions regarding gardening for dementia patients, please get in touch with Thrive today.

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