Gardening offers a wide variety of benefits for people of all ages and those with dementia. It can reduce stress, improve core strength and flexibility, as well as help create a healthier more positive outlook on life. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, the benefits of dementia sensory gardens are even greater.
Digging in the dirt and helping to create a garden can allow someone with dementia to find purpose and feel at peace. You can see the joy gardening brings to people with dementia firsthand when you visit any of our Heartland Village programs.
Benefits of Gardening for People with Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease
A few of the many benefits of gardens for dementia patients include:
- An opportunity to enjoy the outdoors
- Exercise for the body, mind and spirit
- Decreased agitation and anxiety
- Helps promote a better quality of sleep
- The chance to regain self-confidence
- Increased feelings of self-worth
- A chance to find purpose
- Activity that engages the senses
10 Tips for Creating a Safe Garden for Seniors with Alzheimer’s
While gardening may seem like a fairly low-risk activity, there are precautions you need to take before a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s heads out in to the garden. Creating a safe and structured environment is a necessary part of gardening for people with dementia.
A few suggestions to make sure your senior loved one stays safe in the dementia garden include:
1. Pre-plan activities you and your loved one can do together in the garden. It might be planting containers or watering the perennials. Try to create a list of garden tasks and activities that don’t require your loved one to follow a lot of directions to be successful.
2. Have safe garden tools for them to use. Avoid those that have sharp or pointed edges. Scoops and trowels with rounded edges are best.
3. Remember to help them apply sunscreen before going outside and to wear a hat that shields their face.
4. Keep a bottle of cold water on hand for your senior family member and remind them to drink frequently while you are gardening.
5. Because it isn’t uncommon for someone with Alzheimer’s to mistake plants and other objects for food and try to eat them, make sure each planting they will have access to is non-toxic. You can use this website to check if you aren’t sure which plants might be dangerous.
6. Place benches and seats throughout the garden to give your senior loved one safe spot to rest.
7. Try to make sure the ground where they will be working is level and free from roots and debris that might increase their risk for a fall.
8. Incorporate bird feeders and bird baths in to your garden. Bird watching has been proven to help calm agitation and anxiety in people with Alzheimer’s.
9. Consider having a few raised beds installed in your garden. They are fairly easy and inexpensive to add. Raised beds are safer for older adults because they don’t require the gardener to get up and down to plant and maintain flowers.
10. Try to create a garden environment that flows in a circle or figure eight. Even if you have to add containers to keep the design of the garden moving forward. Eliminating dead ends in the garden can help minimize confusion and agitation.
Finally, remember not to leave someone living with Alzheimer’s unattended in the garden. It may lead to wandering if they become frightened or are trying to find you.
Resources for Therapeutic Gardening
If you are new to gardening and need a little more advice on how to create a safe dementia garden space, these resources may be of help to you.