Gardening Tips for Those with Alzheimer’s


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Gardening-211x300.jpgWith summer in full force, many people are turning their attention to their gardens – and that may include people with Alzheimer’s. Gardening is an excellent way to get fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, as well as to be surrounded by beauty. Many doctors feel that gardening can have a therapeutic effect on a person with Alzheimer’s as well.

Benefits

Gardening may have other benefits for an individual with Alzheimer’s. These include:

Gentle stimulation. There are many sensory characteristics associated with gardening which can be palatable to a person with Alzheimer’s: the sweet smell of flowers, the tactile associations of various leaves, grass, and dirt, the feel of a light breeze, the sound of birds and squirrels, the sight of many different colors and shapes, etc.
Stress reduction. Gardens are often quiet and peaceful, creating a background that can help to calm and release tension.
Ownership. Many dementia patients can develop a sense of personal pride and ownership from their work in a garden.

Tips

Every person with Alzheimer’s is different, so every person will have different needs, reactions, etc. However, here are some general tips which are often helpful for a person with dementia who is gardening.

  • Keep “shade” as even as possible. In advanced stages of dementia, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish a very dark area of shade from a hole or dark opening, causing confusion or distress.
  • Make it easy to navigate. Bumps, ridges, and hillocks can be challenging, as can surfaces and objects that reflect too much sunlight and cause a glare that can be disorienting.
  • Consider a figure 8. Some experts suggest that a garden in the shape of a figure 8 or even just a circle may be easier for a person with Alzheimer’s. The theory behind this is that there will then be no dead end and therefore less opportunity for confusion. The circularity is also thought to be more soothing.
  • Avoid toxic plants. Even with an attentive companion, a person with dementia may taste or eat a plant. Using only non-toxic plants can make this ingestion much safer.
  • Take appropriate sun precautions.  Sunscreen, protective clothing, sunglasses, and hats are all options that should be considered, especially on very sunny days.​


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