A dementia garden is designed to provide stimulating sensory and therapeutic benefits for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The plants and features in the garden are carefully chosen to support cognitive function and provide positive experiences.
These gardens typically include features such as raised beds, sensory plantings, water features, and meandering paths.
A dementia garden provides a place for socialization and interaction, promotes movement and exercise, and aids in the management of symptoms such as anxiety and agitation.
Additionally, gardening can be a therapeutic activity for both the person with dementia and their carer.
There are some things to consider before creating therapeutic gardens, however, which we’ll explore in-depth in this article.
These include things such as the size and layout of the space, what type of plants and features to include, and how to make the garden safe for family members with cognitive impairment.
With careful planning, it is possible to create a dementia garden that is both beautiful and functional.
Why are Dementia Gardens Beneficial?
There are many positive effects to having a dementia garden, including improved mood, decreased anxiety, and improved cognitive function.
It’s a wonderful therapeutic intervention technique for seniors suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
There is also evidence that spending time in nature has a positive impact on stress levels. The reduction of stress can’t help but improve one’s overall health.
In one study, researchers noted that, for Alzheimer’s patients, gardening promoted “creativity, self-esteem, social interaction, sensory stimulation, gross and fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.“
A natural environment and spending time in outdoor spaces, such as a garden, provides a much-needed sense of calm and peace for people living in often chaotic and confusing conditions.
The gardens can also offer opportunities for socialization and stimulation, both of which are important for maintaining cognitive health.
An additional benefit is that the physical activity involved in gardening can help to improve overall physical health.
Depending on the stage of dementia and their current cognitive abilities, the UK Alzheimer’s society even recommends that older adults can engage in a meaningful activity like sprucing “up your garden furniture and fences” by painting them.
They go on to say that active involvement in such activity “…can be quite relaxing while feeling like something noticeable has been accomplished.“
Dementia gardens are also wonderful for caregivers as a respite from a hectic day and as a chance to connect with their loved ones.
What Do Sensory Gardens Decrease?
Sensory gardens can help to decrease the number of things for people with dementia.
One of the main things they can help with is anxiety. People with dementia often experience anxiety and stress due to their condition.
This can be caused by a number of things, including memory loss, confusion, and changes in routine.
Sensory gardens, however, can provide a calming environment for people with dementia to help them relax and reduce their anxiety levels.
Another thing that sensory gardens can help to decrease is agitation levels. Agitation is a common symptom of dementia and can be caused by a number of things, including boredom, frustration, and loneliness.
In addition, sensory gardens can help to increase socialization and communication. Socialization and communication are often difficult for people with dementia, but spending time in a dementia garden can help to encourage both.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Having a Dementia Garden?
There are a few potential drawbacks to consider before creating your own garden for a loved one with dementia.
- It is important to make sure that the garden is a safe space for those with dementia.
- Gardens require ongoing maintenance, which can be challenging for caregivers.
- Gardens may not be suitable for all stages of dementia.
One other potential drawback to having a dementia garden is that not everyone will find the same things calming or stimulating.
That’s why it’s important to work with the person living with dementia to find out what they do and don’t like, and to tailor the garden accordingly.
How Does Nature Help Dementia (Cognitive Benefits of Gardening)
It’s no secret that being in nature can help reduce stress levels and improve our mood.
But did you know that spending time outdoors in green spaces can also offer some cognitive benefits for people living with dementia?
One way nature can help memory loss and dementia is by providing a stimulating environment. Horticultural activities can be a great way to keep the mind active and engaged.
Tasks such as planting, watering, and harvesting can help promote mental stimulation and delay the onset of cognitive decline.
Studies have also shown that people with dementia who spend time in gardens or other natural settings have an improved sense of well-being and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In addition to the mental and emotional benefits, spending time outdoors can also be good for your physical health.
Gardening can also help improve fine motor skills and provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Exposure to natural light and fresh air can help improve sleep quality, increase energy levels, and reduce stress hormones.
And, according to several case studies, vitamin D deficiency results in both health and cognitive concerns, and getting vitamin D from outdoor activities may help ward off dementia in the first place.
Our results confirm that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer disease.Littlejohns, et al, Neurology. 2014 Sep 2; 83(10): 920–928
Another beneficial effect of being physically active in the garden is that it can help to improve balance and coordination.
That said, while there are many benefits to having a dementia garden, there are a few drawbacks to consider as well.
One is that gardens require ongoing maintenance and care, which can be difficult for someone living with dementia.
If a loved one is struggling to take care of their own personal hygiene or perform other activities of daily living, it may not be realistic for them to take on even some of the care of a garden.
Another consideration are safety issues. Garden settings can be home to various hazards, such as sharp tools, poisonous plants, and slippery surfaces. It’s important to make sure that any garden being used by someone with dementia is free of these dangers.
If you’re interested in creating a dementia garden, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- First, choose plants that are easy to care for and don’t require too much attention.
- Secondly, consider using raised beds or containers to make it easier for the person with dementia to access the plants.
- Finally, make sure there is plenty of seating available so that the person can rest when needed.
What Should a Sensory Garden Include?
When designing a dementia garden, it is important to consider what sensory experiences will be most enjoyable and beneficial for the person with dementia. Sensory gardens can provide a range of stimulating smells, tastes, textures, sounds, and visual interests.
Including a water feature in the design of the garden can provide a calming influence, while raised beds can make it easier for people with limited mobility to engage in gardening activities.
A good garden design should promote independence and social interaction, as well as provide opportunities for exercise.
Some common features of dementia gardens include:
Smell: Fragrant flowers or herbs
Touch: Textured surfaces, such as gravel or sand
Taste: Edible plants, such as fruits or herbs
Memory: Incorporate personal memories into the garden design through the use of plants, objects, or photos that are significant to the individual.
In addition to these sensory elements, it is also important to create a garden that is safe for those with dementia. This means avoiding any potential hazards, such as sharp objects or loose stones.
Creating clear paths and walkways will also help to prevent falls. Incorporate a simple returning path system (a closed loop pathway) so that the person can wander without fear of getting lost.
Finally, choosing low-maintenance plants will make it easier to care for the garden.
What Are Dementia Garden Design Principles?
If you are thinking about creating a dementia garden, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- First, it’s important to involve the person with dementia in the planning process as much as possible. This will help them feel ownership over the space and make it more likely that they’ll use it.
- Next, the garden should be safe. This means that there should be no sharp objects or poisonous plants, and the pathways should be wide enough for wheelchair users. Also, avoid the use of pesticides and other chemicals, as they can be harmful to everyone, not just people with dementia.
- Keep the garden simple. Too many stimuli can be overwhelming for someone with dementia. Stick to a few basic elements, such as plants, water features, and light features.
- The garden should be easily accessible and easy to navigate. That means no steps or high walls that could block the way. There should be clear signage and paths, and obstacles should be kept to a minimum. Include raised beds or planters to make it easier for those with limited mobility to garden. (Read our other senior gardening tips here.)
- Plant easy-to-care-for plants that don’t require a lot of time or effort to maintain.
- The garden should have plenty of sensory elements. This means that there should be plenty of flowers with different colors, fragrances, and textures, as well as water features and wind chimes.
- It should have comfortable seating. This means that there should be plenty of benches and chairs for people to sit on while they enjoy the garden.
- The garden should be designed for socializing. This means that there should be plenty of space for people to move around, as well as shady areas where people can sit and chat.
Creating a sensory garden is a great way to provide both a calm and stimulating environment for someone with dementia. With a little planning, you can create a space that the person with dementia will love spending time in.
What Plants Are Good for Dementia Patients?
Some plants that may be beneficial for dementia patients include chamomile, lavender, rosemary, and catnip. These plants have been traditionally used to help with relaxation, sleep, and anxiety.
Additionally, research has shown that certain plant compounds can help to improve cognitive function and memory. While there is no one perfect plant for all dementia patients, these four options may be a good place to start when creating a dementia garden.
It is important to consider the needs of each individual person when selecting the right plants for garden therapy. For example, some people may prefer fragrant plants while others may prefer visually stimulating ones.
Selecting plants based on the preferences of the person can help to create a garden that is both enjoyable and therapeutic.
Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that not all plants are safe for people with dementia. Some plants can be poisonous if ingested and others may cause skin irritations.
Be sure to do your research and consult with a medical professional before selecting any plants for your garden.
If you are interested in creating a dementia garden, there are many resources available to help you get started. Your local library or community center may have gardening classes, and some online resources and organizations can provide support and advice.
Creating a dementia garden can be a rewarding experience for both the person with dementia and their carer, so it is definitely worth exploring.