There are many different types of therapy available to those with dementia, but people are often unaware of the many benefits that a garden can give to those with the condition.

The act of gardening itself can provide many benefits, including keeping the brain active and promoting mindfulness.

However, gardening can often be a difficult task for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Fortunately, using a garden as a form of sensory therapy for dementia can be a rewarding experience for those requiring care.

Designing the garden

While individuals with dementia often have difficulty with memory and reasoning, many are still able to express emotions, and using a garden as a catalyst for this can have many benefits.

Being outside in a garden has been proven to help relax those with dementia, as well as promote a variety of stimulation. The abundance of colours from plants and flowers can stimulate sight, while the accompanying different fragrances encourage an enhanced use of an individual’s sense of smell.

Making sure your garden includes flowers and plants that the patient may have fond memories of is important, as this can help promote conversation and even in some cases promote memory recollection of a similar event in the past.

Certain plants can also be included regardless due to their positive natural properties. Lavender is a popular choice due to its relaxing properties and ability to promote a better night’s sleep, and lemon balm is also helpful due to its memory boosting effects.

Other helpful plants and flowers include lamb’s ear due to its woolly and soft touch, as well as yarrow because of its stiff flowers yet soft foliage.

A bird house or bird table can also promote wildlife, which can be another helpful stimulating aspect to add to your garden.

Monitoring the garden

However, once the garden is full of flowers and plants, it is important to continue to monitor the garden to keep it safe for dementia patients who wish to use it.

Weeds can grow, and if not removed can create dangerous hazards, so it is important to keep an eye out and keep on top of them.

It is also important that your garden is secure so there is no chance of someone with dementia being able to wander off. If you have a back gate, ensure it is securely locked at all times, and also try to ensure your garden does not contain any dead ends which could cause confusion.

Notable sensory gardens

There are many examples of famous gardens aimed to help those dementia and other memory problems.

In 2008, international healthcare group Bupa held a competition to design a garden with a focus on “exploring the value of outdoor space in terms of how it can enhance wellbeing” that could help those with dementia.

The gold winning garden was awarded to Cleve West, who’s figure eight layout was praised for its ability to provide a safe sanctuary, as well as still remaining stimulating and exciting.

"After 10 months of planning and three weeks of hard work to create the garden, it's great to get this recognition,” he said.