Safe Gardening Tips for Adults with Dementia

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 31, 2018
Safe Gardening Tips for Adults with Dementia
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Gardening offers a variety of mental and physical health benefits for people of all ages. It helps to reduce stress, improve strength and stamina, and boost the spirit. For older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia, the benefits are even greater.

Creating an opportunity for a family member with dementia to grow and nurture their own garden can help them reap the many rewards of gardening.

Gardening and Alzheimer’s Disease

Having a chance to enjoy the great outdoors is one of the gardening benefits people with dementia often enjoy most. Here are some others:

  • Lower agitation and anxiety
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Sense of accomplishment

While gardening might seem like a low-risk activity, there are safety risks to be aware of when an adult with Alzheimer’s works in the garden.

6 Tips for Helping a Senior With Alzheimer’s Garden Safely

Use these tips to create a safe, secure gardening environment:

  1. Safe tools: Most of us probably don’t pay much attention to how dangerous garden tools are, but some can have sharp edges and points. For people with cognitive loss, tools with rounded edges are best. Those with larger handles are also easier for adults who might have difficulty with hand coordination.
  2. Cold water: Adults with Alzheimer’s may not remember to drink water. On a hot day, that can put them at risk for dehydration. Make sure your senior loved one has a bottle of water to keep with them while they garden. A non-breakable bottle is better than glass.
  3. Non-toxic plants: It isn’t unusual for someone with Alzheimer’s to mistake plants—especially those with an appealing fragrance—for food and try to eat them. As you help your senior loved one create their garden, make sure the plants you are providing aren’t toxic.
  4. Sun safety: Don’t forget to take good sun-safety precautions. Make sure you and your loved one both have hats to shield your face and that you apply ample sunscreen. Avoid gardening during the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak.
  5. Rest breaks: Alzheimer’s often creates mobility challenges, so it’s important to have safe spots in the garden to rest. Benches and seats can be strategically placed to make it easier to take a break.
  6. Container gardens: Container gardening is the practice of growing plants in pots and other containers, rather than in the ground. Consider using this approach and raised beds. They are easy, inexpensive, and safe.

Container Garden Ideas for Adults With Dementia

Here are a few ideas for creating visually appealing container gardens for a senior with dementia:

  • Waist-high raised beds
  • Galvanized steel trough planters
  • Smaller containers placed on an outdoor table
  • Vertical garden containers

Each of these keeps the senior safer because they don’t require getting up and down from the ground.

The good news is that almost any type of plant or flower can be grown in a container. Herbs and vegetables are fun to grow and harvest for summer cooking.

If your local garden center doesn’t offer edible flowers, you can order seeds and grow your own. Your loved one might enjoy watching the flower grow from seed to full bloom.

Gardening is just one of the many activities residents enjoy in Sunrise Reminiscence neighborhoods across the country. We invite you to schedule a tour at the community nearest you to learn more!

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