5 Gardening Therapy Benefits for People With Dementia

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Dementia is an illness that affects the whole family. The disease causes memory loss, confusion, disorientation, loss of focus, sleep disorder, and a range of other symptoms. This will explore the benefits Gardening Therapy holds for individuals living with dementia.

The disease will require professional and familial caregivers to assist the patient when they can no longer function independently. The constant need for care can tax the patient, who can become agitated or socially isolated. Researchers are searching for a cure and effective treatments to improve the lives of individuals with dementia.

If your loved one has dementia, it can be challenging to know how to help them feel better and live a more fulfilling life. As research into treatments continues, doctors have discovered the benefits of gardening therapy, also known as horticultural therapy, in helping ease dementia symptoms.

Gardening Therapy Helps in Many Ways

Gardening therapy can help dementia patients in various ways, including maintaining their physical health, decreasing stress, and increasing communication with other patients, friends, and care partners.

We’ve gathered five ways gardening therapy can benefit patients with dementia and how it could help your loved one living with the disease.

What Is Gardening Therapy?

Gardening or horticultural therapy uses plant or plant-based activities to promote healing and rehabilitation in patients. It’s an ancient practice that is now recognized as a medical therapy.

What we know as gardening therapy today began in the 1800s with Dr. Benjamin Rush, who documented the benefits his psychiatric patients received from gardening at his clinic. Since then, gardening therapy has been used in various mental health settings and is commonplace in many treatment centers.

In the 1940s and 1950s, hospitalized war veterans received various treatments, including gardening therapy, which significantly expanded therapy in healthcare settings. You can train to become a horticultural therapist who specializes in providing a positive and healing therapy experience for patients with various mental and physical ailments. It’s used in vocational, rehabilitation, and community centers.

Gardening is an activity almost anyone can participate in, and plants don’t discriminate between age or mental ability, allowing their care to be a calming experience that helps with many dementia symptoms.

1 Sleep

Your circadian rhythm is a combination of physical and psychological factors that tells our body when to be awake and when to sleep. For dementia patients, that rhythm gets disturbed, leading to an irregular sleep pattern. This can lead to increased agitation and further health issues.

Sleep is vital for all humans, but it can be crucial for your loved one with dementia to slow down their mental decline. Sleep affects memory, focus, concentration, immunity, and many other health factors.

Horticultural therapy has been shown to bring a sense of satisfaction to patients with dementia. Gardening is a low-impact way to be active, which can help their circadian rhythm. Plants also have a calming effect, which can help patients’ minds relax and fall asleep more quickly.

2 Agitation

Agitation in dementia patients is understandable, as their mind is starting to betray them. However, it can be dangerous for the patient and others when agitation gets to the point of leaving an area or getting aggressive with someone else.

Research shows that patients who participate in gardening therapy have significantly lower agitation levels than before. Even just being around plants can help dementia patients feel more at ease.

Gardening reduces stress levels, which can help patients feel less agitated. This can help with their overall mood and allow them to participate in social activities more easily.

3 Memory

Memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of dementia. The disease damages brain parts that deal with creating memories and retrieving them later. However, gardening therapy has been found to help dementia patients by improving memory and cognition.

Gardening helps to stimulate patients’ senses to help improve memory retention. Gardening can affect the amygdala, which is the brain’s emotion center. Emotions are tied to our memories, and gardening can bring up emotions that can stimulate memory. This is incredibly impactful when the patient used to garden or was around plants often.

Some patients can even have memory gardens filled with plants and other items that help them remember different times in their life. These places can also benefit caregivers who can use a peaceful environment.

4 Improve Attention Span

One symptom of dementia is a lessened attention span. If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, you may notice they lose their concentration more easily or can wander from one activity to another.

Dementia damages parts of the brain, including the ability to focus for long periods. Gardening therapy can help patients regain their attention span by giving patients a job to concentrate on and improve their focus.

It’s important to know that giving a patient too many jobs to focus on can lead to setbacks, so allow them to focus on doing one activity at a time.

5 Social Skills

Dementia patients can struggle socially as their understanding declines, and they have to give up doing activities they used to love. Research has found that one hour a day of social interaction with dementia patients can help improve their quality of life and reduce agitation.

Humans are social creatures by nature, and even the healthiest of us need to have social interaction. You interact with your friends and family to get a mood boost, solve problems, and feel a sense of belonging and security.

When you remove those benefits from patients who are already struggling with their mental and physical health. Dementia patients, especially those with few visitors, can become isolated from friends, neighbors, and other patients and caregivers.

Gardening therapy programs allow patients to get outside with horticultural therapists and other patients, allowing them to meet new, like-minded people and form friendships. This interaction can reduce neuropsychiatric symptoms and improve the overall quality of the patients’ lives.

Using Gardening Therapy in Dementia Care

Research shows that using gardening therapy can significantly benefit the life of your loved one with dementia. It helps stimulate their senses and gives opportunities for them to feel a sense of purpose and interact with other patients and caregivers.

This therapy allows doctors to rely less on medication by immersing patients in the healing power of nature.

About the Author

Beth Rush

group exercise for dementia

Beth Rush

Beth Rush is the Managing Editor and Content Manager at Body+Mind.

Body+Mind features articles about diet, fitness, mental health, parenting and health care.




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