Growing Plants and Flowers Can Empower Homebound Seniors



NASA astronauts do this form of therapy to help improve feelings of isolation and loneliness. Our ancestors did it for pure sustenance and survival. Today’s home caregivers are urged to try it with their Alzheimer’s and dementia clients to help bring about positive results— it’s gardening.


The site of a beautifully blooming flower and the distinct aroma of fresh herbs are both calming influences. The physical act of planting, pruning, and weeding (even if it’s simply removing dead leaves) can be considered forms of occupational therapy, encouraging motor skills.


Benefits of Gardening Therapy

Therapeutic gardening can help homebound individuals regain lost skills, improve attention spans and social interactions, help reduce frustration or anger and promote healing. There’s even a name for the science that studies how nature helps heal: ecopsychology. The field focuses on the bond between humans and the earth. And more and more research points to the fact that spending time with nature can provide all sorts of improvements and enhancements, boosting moods, strengthening spirituality and inspiring feelings of generosity.


Indoor Gardens Offer Positive Results

Gardening is an enjoyable hobby that encourages positivity. Even the simple act of digging in dirt is known to help reduce anxiety. When much of life’s responsibilities have been taken away, therapeutic gardening can help offer homebound seniors a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Family members who formerly loved tending lawns and larger gardens can participate in pared-down versions of these outdoor activities, producing and seeing their efforts literally blossom. Even the smallest planter can help stimulate multiple senses —sight, smell, touch and, in the case of plants like herbs —taste.


Some indoor gardening tips:

  • Like any other garden, make sure you choose plants that match the level of light in the area of the home

  • Keep the plants and flowers on an easy-to-reach table that doesn’t require strenuous bending or heavy lifting

  • For individuals with especially green thumbs, a variety of plants and flowers that require different feeding and nurturing can provide a true sense of purpose and accomplishment to the “grower”

  • Consider herbs and vegetables like tomatoes and peppers that can be grown in small spaces yet eventually be harvested and enjoyed


Ecotherapy

Also known as nature therapy or green therapy, this form of treatment is based on the idea that we’re connected to our environment and that connecting to nature helps yield positive emotions. The concept has been studied in ways as simple as viewing photographs of nature or looking at nature from a window to promote more positive moods.


DIY Outdoor Spring Gardens

By modifying gardening techniques, raised garden beds can be constructed to make life fun and easier for seniors with mobility issues where bending is difficult. Long-handled tools can also make gardening easier. Small gardens can enhance wellness in terms of increasing serotonin levels and helping build endurance. Another plus is the daily dose of Vitamin D gleaned from spending time outdoors. (As spring becomes summer, caregivers should avoid gardening during the hottest times of the day, encouraging sunscreen and fluid intake).


Gardening for Dementia and Alzheimer Patients

Garden therapy helps tie us to the present. The peace associated with being around nature can help build confidence, enhance concentration, and reduce aggression. Caregivers of patients with memory impairments can involve the memory-impaired individual involved in the selection process, asking them what colors they like best, for instance. If outside excursions are possible, taking an individual to a garden center can become the equivalent of a relaxing walk in the park.


The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) also state that gardening can “awaken the senses of persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” and that gardening activities for all seasons can be geared to different cognitive levels. One caveat: Caregivers should avoid anything that would be tempting to put in the mouth and could be poisonous if swallowed (like rhubarb leaves).


Indoor Hydroponics and Indoor/Outdoor Window Boxes

Hydroponics, the name given to a method of gardening without soil, utilizes only water and nutrients and requires little maintenance, with plants placed on countertops for easier accessibility. When outdoor gardening isn’t possible, and seniors are limited to balconies or indoor locations, what’s called “plug and play” hydroponic systems can be purchased. The hobby can get pretty technical, with a variety of systems including water culture (roots hang down submerged in nutrient solution, aeroponic (roots are exposed and misted), wicking (a wick pulls moisture toward plant as and when needed) and more. Herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme and cilantro and vegetables like cabbage and spinach can grow especially well in windowsills.


Planting Seeds of Hope

Reliance Home Health Care understands that their clients seek independence and purpose. Our caregivers work with families on a flexible basis to help grow not just plants and vegetables, but compassionate relationships while helping maintain a positive home environment. Whether you seek companionship, assistance with daily activities or more specialized memory care, we can help individuals stay positive and healthier. For more information, contact us at 610-896-6030.

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