According to Alzheimers.org.uk, it is estimated that by 2025, there will be as many as over 800,000 individuals suffering from dementia in the UK alone. This is a staggering statistic by all means, but as specialists learn more about this condition, it helps to open channels of communication between carers and patients. This doesn’t always refer to speech though, as there are other means of communicating that patients can use, with a little support.
Helping dementia patients express themselves beyond using verbal communication is not only beneficial to carers, but it has been noted that it can also help individuals to feel secure in company. One way you can encourage patients to communicate is through sensory stimulation.
This term refers to items stimulating any of the senses, whether this is through a familiar scent or texture. This method is beneficial for helping patients to feel at ease and has even been described as an “on-going source of pleasure”.
So, on the topic of sensory stimulation, in this article, we will look at a few ideas for creating a safe and secure outdoor environment for dementia patients.
Natural resources are a great place to start when designing a sensory stimulation garden for individuals with dementia. Things like pinecones and a mix of different flora species can create an organic-inspired environment while helping to stimulate the senses through visual (sight), tactile (touch) and olfactory (smell) cues.
Though not organic, having a level surface for wheelchairs or those who like to explore the garden is essential. This helps to keep them safe, and one good option is artificial turf from the likes of ALC. Not only does it help to provide a level foundation for the garden, but it is also soft.
If a patient, in particular, prefers to enjoy lunch outside, a packed lunch gives them the perfect opportunity to continue sensory stimulation. When packing lunch, be sure to choose foods that are familiar and encourage them to respond, such as an orange due to the texture of the skin.
On the topic of foods, Caot.ca suggests encouraging patients to respond by performing an action of sorts. This might mean providing light encouragement for them to pop soil in a flower pot, or something that requires a simple function.
Having a couple of activities in the garden to engage with is also a great way to encourage a response, as well as support patients. Having things like large sheets of paper and pens is a wonderful way to help patients get stuck in with an adult activity. This also opens doors for communication.
These are just a few tips for creating a sensory stimulation garden for those with dementia. If you have any other suggestions for our readers, please feel free to share them.