What Is A Memory Garden: Gardens For People With Alzheimer’s And Dementia

What Is A Memory Garden: Gardens For People With Alzheimer’s And Dementia

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
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There are many studies on the benefits of gardening both for the mind and the body. Simply being outdoors and connecting with nature can have a clarifying and beneficial effect. People with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease will glean a host of positive experiences from participating in the garden. Designing a memory garden, or one for those affected by these debilitating conditions, allows them to enjoy exercise and fresh air as well as stimulate the senses.

What is a Memory Garden?

Memory gardens stimulate patients living with memory loss. They can carry gentle reminders of past experiences and jog the memory as plant identification and care are highlighted. Gardens for people with Alzheimer’s are also helpful for the caregivers, whose lives are also turned upside down and need a much deserved place of peace.

Alzheimer’s friendly gardens have been scientifically shown to help heal body and mind as well as bring hope and engagement in the form of activities and participation. Patient care has evolved over the years and now embraces both western and eastern medicine in a holistic package. It has been shown that just treating the body is not enough of a stimulant in many situations and such is the case with those suffering from memory loss.

Gardens for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s can reduce negative feelings, provide positive experiences, reduce stress and help hold attention. It can be argued that any garden has these capacities, but designing a memory garden with such patients in mind should include important elements such as safety and features of interest.

Designing Alzheimer’s Friendly Gardens

According to experts, gardens for people with Alzheimer’s should have several different aspects. The first is health and safety. Avoiding toxic plants, installing railing and providing paths are all part of creating a safe environment. Fences should be tall enough as to not be scaled and all footpaths non-slip. Paths must be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs too.

Next, any safety features should be disguised to prevent anxiety. Plant vines and taller trees to screen gates and fences and enclose the space in natural peacefulness. Maintenance must be considered so that the place has no pitfalls, drainage is adequate, and the pathways are safe and easy to navigate.

Developing a garden that can be appreciated from the indoors can also benefit patients with memory loss. The elements of the garden should include scents, colors, sounds, wildlife, and perhaps even edibles. Who doesn’t love a lazy stroll that ends in a freshly picked apple or ripe, red strawberry? These types of thoughtful additions will create a holistic effect that soothes the soul.

Remember to include benches for tired walkers and an area of shade to prevent overheating. A memory garden is very similar to any garden, but a few special additions can help it become more beneficial for those challenged by memory loss and provide a beautiful, nurturing, healing environment.

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