Alzheimer Society underscores value gardening programs bring to people with dementia

OMNI homes have also found success using gardens to curb agitation and enhance quality of life for residents

The Alzheimer Society of Canada says gardening programs can be effective tools to help ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.

Since many people living with cognitive impairment enjoyed gardening throughout their lives, such programs can help bring back fond memories. Gardening programs are also a non-pharmacological approach to improving quality of life for people living with cognitive impairment, the Alzheimer Society notes.

“Participating in gardening activities is possible at every stage of progression (of dementia),” the Alzheimer Society says on its blog site. “At any stage, one’s environment can be adapted to better support someone who is living with dementia. Everyone can benefit from the sense of well-being that comes with gardening.”

Some OMNI Health Care homes have also seen the benefit of therapeutic gardening programs. In spring, the Frost Manor Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) team created an indoor gardening program that’s aimed at curbing agitation in residents with cognitive impairment.

Working with the life enrichment team, BSO team members bought some work shelves, seeds and containers for planting. Team members set up the shelves and put the containers on them. The team then got residents to plant seeds to grow mint, basil, garlic and chives. The plants are located in one of the lounges near a large window for sunlight.

Some of the residents were given watering cans and a watering schedule. One resident who often exit-seeks showed particular interest and began watering the plants regularly and tending to their needs, explains registered practical nurse Justin Hills, the BSO team lead.

After the resident tends to the plants, he often tells team members what he did and speaks with pride, Justin says.

“This program provides an extra activity and a meaningful task for residents to complete, and residents feel a sense of pride and meaning when they come and tell us about what they have done,” Justin says.

Science also supports the benefits gardening programs can bring to people living with cognitive impairment. In a 2012 study published by the U.S.-based National Center for Biotechnology Information, researchers discovered therapeutic gardening was successful at pain reduction, improving attention, minimizing stress, curbing agitation, reducing antipsychotic medication administration and even preventing falls.

“These benefits are important factors in improving the quality of life and possibly reducing costs for long-term, assisted living and dementia unit residents,” the study’s authors write.

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