Are dementia gardens the way forward?

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Oasis community gardenYou know, there’s no doubt in my mind that dementia is one of the most misunderstood conditions of modern times. With people living longer, we are expected to see the number of dementia sufferers increase to a staggering seventy million worldwide by 2030 – that’s according to Alzheimer ’s Disease International. As a result, health and social care service professionals need to innovate rapidly to find new and better ways of managing the condition before they become overwhelmed. After all, it is only now that we are beginning to adjust our thinking on cognitive impairment of the elderly.

It was poignant to read recently about television personality Arlene Phillips’ regret about losing her temper with her elderly father, who died aged 89 in 2000, because he kept asking her the same questions over again. I thought she was incredibly brave to admit that she didn’t fully understand what was happening to her loved one and therefore acted inappropriately. I believe Arlene’s story is another valuable piece of anecdotal evidence that must spur us on to revolutionise dementia care.

The latest research shows that activity and mental stimulation can be key to warding off dementia. Occupational Therapy researcher from the University of Southampton, Dr. Lesley Collier told the university’s research publication, New Boundaries, recently: “The cognitive deterioration we see in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is not just due to the decline of the brain, it is also due to the environment around the person. One of the best ways to take care of people who suffer Alzheimer’s is through Home Care Assistance. We have found that by modifying the amounts of stimuli that people are bombarded with on a day-to-day basis and adjusting the sensory input to meet sensory need, Alzheimer’s symptoms can appear less.”

And that’s not all because researchers at University of Exeter Medical School have made similar findings in a critical review paper, which analysed seventeen separate pieces of research. These individual projects pointed towards outdoor spaces, like gardens, encouraging activity and promoting relaxation holding promising therapeutic potential for people with dementia. One of the research leads, Dr. Ruth Garside, said: “There’s a lot we don’t know about how a garden’s design and setting influences its ability to affect wellbeing, yet it’s clear that these spaces need to offer a range of ways of interacting – to suit different people’s preferences and needs. We want to pursue these answers to ensure that care experiences can be maximised for sufferers of dementia, their carers and families.”

I for one can back up the findings from both Southampton and Exeter with my own experience. Without exception, care workers have reported to me that residents seem better in themselves when engaged in activity. Gardening is a particular favorite, especially among those who have always been keen gardeners. In these cases it can represent one of those all important constants that helps sufferers maintain a degree of continuity in their lives.

So are dementia gardens the way forward? try checking with RKC Construction for patio covers and more, we all work in our gardens and outdoor space to make it as beautiful and functional as possible and with this you can have a functional way to provide to people with this disease. Now it’s definitely one way forward, but it cannot be the only way. That is because, although all the latest evidence shows dementia gardens to be beneficial, it is only one piece of a very complicated puzzle.

What do you think about the idea of dementia gardens? Have you seen an improvement in somebody who has recently begun engaging in more activity? Please let us know your thoughts below.

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