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Horticulture Therapy Helping Dementia Patients

May 16, 2016 0 Comments

Reg asked me just the other day: “Do you think I’ll like gardening when I grow up?” Being a skeleton I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was way past considering the benefits of Horticulture Therapy. So I just mentioned that with his busy schedule teaching Body Systems at Back to Basics Care, he simply wouldn’t have time to add it to his daily regime.

Horticulture Therapy

Enjoy the Benefits of Horticulture Therapy

Horticulture Therapy is all about enriching people’s lives through gardening, both physically and mentally.

When some people hear the words ‘horticulture’ or ‘gardening’ they immediately conjure up images of back breaking digging with a pitchfork, as well as sore knees and lower back from kneeling and bending over in the garden… but it doesn’t have to be that – this is horticulture therapy – not torture!

Horticulture Therapy can include anything from potting a seedling into a pot, digging a hole in loosened soil with a small trowel to plant a small bush, watering the plants, touching the foliage of a plant as it is pruned, gathering the blossoms from a plant to take indoors for a vase, and even enjoying the scents that linger in a sensory garden.

There is a certain pleasure in getting in touch with the elements of the earth. It is a person’s opportunity to connect with nature – something that is increasingly denied us as we choose to closet ourselves indoors.

The benefits of Horticulture Therapy include:

  • a reduction in stress levels.
  • a social element. People who don’t necessarily find connecting with others an easy thing, may feel comfortable being within a gardening group. Others who enjoy a chat may find it the perfect opportunity to spend time with like-minded and ‘accommodating’ ears.
  • stimulation of many senses – visual at the many colours and shapes within a plant or garden, sound – birds calling, bees humming and the wind ‘song’ high in the trees, touch – the different textures of the soil and plants, emotional – as smells and touches stimulate memories or simply a sense of peace, smell – the scent of wood, leaves and blossom, and even gustatory senses if someone is handling fruit, vegetables or herbs.
  • creativity. While a person’s hands are busy digging or settling a seedling within a pot, the mind is free to soar to new heights, or focus on improving what their hands are busy doing.
  • rehabilitation. Gardening can help build muscle strength, endurance, improve dexterity and fine-tune motor skills. This could be used as part of the recovery process from a stroke, injury or illness.
  • escape from pain or sadness. Focusing on the job at hand can take one’s attention away from stressful thoughts or pain. If gardening is something a person with Dementia used to do alot previously, it might be an escape from stress as old (and unconscious) habits kick in.
  • a rise in self esteem and satisfaction of a job completed and seeing the fruits of that labour as the plant grows.
  • physical activity.

If a client who is involved with the Horticulture Therapy needs a little help or a reminder of how to perform a task then step-by-step pictures might help. The key is to enjoy and feel good about one’s contribution, not stress because one can’t remember what the next step is.

And finally, a research note supporting the benefits of Horticulture Therapy:

A Dutch study asked two groups to complete a stressful task. Afterwards, one group gardened for 30 minutes. The other group read indoors. The group that gardened reported better moods than the reading group. They also had measurably lower cortisol levels. Cortisol aka the ‘stress hormone’, can influence more than just mood. Chronically elevated cortisol levels have been linked to everything from negatively impacting immunity functions, obesity, memory issues, learning challenges, and heart disease.

Filed in: Workplace Tips

About the Author:

Olive resides full time in the Training Centre of Back to Basics Care. She assists students to perform activities that take place within a health care setting. Her role here on the website is to keep you up-to-date with research and study outcomes within the health care sector.

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