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Gardening for Those With Dementia: Great Fun, Great Therapy!

Do you like to garden? If you do, then you’re well acquainted with its multiple, long lasting benefits. But did you know that gardening is also therapeutic for individuals challenged with dementia? That’s because gardening has been linked to improved emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

If you have a loved one with dementia, this is a good time to consider the therapeutic benefits of doing a little gardening together, especially as we head into the warmer months. Here are three major benefits to get your motivated:

  1. Improves mental health. The act of working the soil with your fingers provides a sense of calm and relaxation that individuals with dementia may find hard to achieve elsewhere. The sounds of nature that surround them and the smell of fresh plants all contribute to a heightened sense of wellbeing. It helps remove some of the ongoing triggers to anxiety and therefore can lower stress levels. It also gives an individual a greater sense of purpose.
  2. Improves physical health. Between the physical movements involved in gardening and the breathing in of fresh air, an individual’s oxygen levels increase. This is good for brain health. Movement, relaxation and fresh air can also lower blood pressure and improve muscle strength and flexibility. The sun overhead can increase the levels of vitamin D in the body, which may even boost immunity!
  3. Provides a more natural way to connect. Because gardening can reduce stress, you may find that your conversation with your loved one may flow more naturally. That’s because the diversion of working with the soil puts less focus on talking and more on simply enjoying working alongside each other.

A few words of caution as you begin your gardening projects. If you have never gardened or it’s been a long time, be sure to start off slowly. This is especially important if you are introducing (or re-introducing) gardening to a loved one with dementia. Keep initial gardening sessions short and simple. You might try arranging a small bucket of soil, a couple pots and a few plants on an outdoor table. Make sure you both have gardening gloves that fit and are not too bulky. It’s important that initial gardening projects are fun and easy to accomplish. Pay special attention to any signs of overheating or anxiety from your loved one and know when to “call it a day”.

At Anthem Memory Care communities, we celebrate the healing power of the outdoors with our central courtyards and gardens that create a peaceful environment for our residents. We encourage them to participate in gardening as it provides a purposeful activity and gives everyone a sense of contributing to their own environment and wellbeing.