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Gardens benefit those with dementia

July 18, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Gardens in long-term care settings promote relaxation, stimulate memories, encourage activity and reduce agitation among residents who have dementia, a new study finds. Additionally, they provide wellbeing opportunities for residents’ families and staff members.

A team at the University of Exeter Medical School reviewed the findings of 17 studies to reach its conclusions. Results of the research, supported by the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula, have been published by JAMDA, the journal of AMDA ‒ The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

“There is an increasing interest in improving dementia symptoms without the use of drugs,” says the study’s lead investigator, Rebecca Whear. “We think that gardens could be benefitting dementia sufferers by providing them with sensory stimulation and an environment that triggers memories. They not only present an opportunity to relax in a calming setting, but also to remember skills and habits that have brought enjoyment in the past.”

A garden might present hazards to residents, however, and staff members must allow residents adequate time to enjoy the outdoor space to its full potential, the study authors say in identifying potential challenges associated with gardens. More research needs to be conducted, they add.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about how a garden’s design and setting influences its ability to affect wellbeing, yet it’s clear that these spaces need to offer a range of ways of interacting – to suit different people’s preferences and needs,” says Ruth Garside, PhD, one of the paper’s authors. “We want to pursue these answers to ensure that care experiences can be maximized for sufferers of dementia, their carers and families.”

Care home gardens may help dementia patients from ECEHH on Vimeo (

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