A role for nature in dementia care

Alice Ashwell doing Qi Gong with the group.

On Saturday November 24, Livewell Villages at Die Ou Pastorie in Somerset West is hosting “Nurtured by Nature” – a one-day workshop for those who love and care for people living with dementia, whether relatives, friends or professional caregivers.

Run by Alice Ashwell of Dementia Connections, this workshop explores the many benefits of nature to people living with dementia, and their caregivers.

Alice’s mother lived with dementia for about 15 years. It was the positive impact of nature on her mood and behaviour that inspired Alice to research the topic further.

“Mum spent a couple of months in a frail care facility where she was kept indoors without access to the garden that she loved so much. We were disturbed by how quickly her mood deteriorated.

“We moved her to a dementia care home with a generous veranda and an accessible garden, and she flourished.”

Alice continues: “Our whole family loves nature, and I know how frustrated I would get if I was prevented from going outdoors to enjoy the sunshine, flowers and birds.”

People are starting to appreciate that many of the mood and behaviour issues associated with dementia are due to the person becoming frustrated as they try to communicate a need, but cannot make themselves understood.

Rather than trying to address behavioural problems through physically restraining the person or administering psychotropic drugs (which increase the risk of falls), personalised care that responds to what the person enjoys doing and where they love to be, can effectively reduce agitation and aggression.

Simply going for a gentle walk in the garden or having a cup of tea on the veranda may be all that is needed.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be very stressful, so the workshop’s aim is two-fold: in addition to exploring how nature can enhance the lives of people living with dementia, it is also an opportunity for care partners to enjoy a restorative experience of nature therapy in the venue’s garden.

The cost of the workshop is R550, which includes lunch, tea and materials. Book by Thursday November 15, at 082 720 7444 or alice@heartofnature.co.za

For participants registered with the Health Professions Council, the workshop is worth five continuing professional development (CPD) points.