Can gardens unlock the secret of our memories?

 Whether you’re green fingered or not, almost everyone loves being out in the garden. From small city yards to sprawling countryside properties, there’s something soothing, relaxing and rejuvenating about greenery, plants, flowers and fresh air.

As well as making us feel better, new research from the University of Exeter Medical School has found that being out in the garden can actually be incredibly therapeutic, especially for those suffering from dementia.

If you have a loved one who suffers from dementia and you’re looking for a way to release their memories and help them relax, here’s how being out in the garden could make a huge and positive difference.

Calming

One of the most important ways that being in a garden affects those suffering with dementia is to calm them. The beautiful plants and flowers, combined with the peaceful atmosphere, can help dementia patients to feel more relaxed. This in itself can ease the symptoms of their condition while providing a pleasant place for them to spend their leisure time.

Interaction

Where a garden is in a shared space like a McCarthy & Stone retirement home, it can also provide an important opportunity for dementia patients to interact with other residents, family and friends. Being in a familiar surrounding like a garden can make these interactions easier for dementia patients, allowing them to regain a sense of normality and helping them to remember old routines.

Unlocking memories

Not only does being more relaxed and having increased levels of interaction help dementia patients unlock old memories but the sensory stimulation and familiar environment provided by a garden can help trigger memories too.

While in a garden, dementia patients are more likely to remember old habits that have brought them enjoyment in the past and recall the potential hazards of gardens and outside spaces.

In some instances, gardens for dementia patients have been completely transformed to provide a range of sensory experiences, with one care home even building a typical seaside scene in their garden to allow residents to remember their holidays by the coast.

These sorts of outdoor experiences have proved so effective in helping to unlock old memories in dementia patients that the Department of Health has recently announced a £50m investment in care homes, much of which will go to the transformation of outside spaces.

By creating familiar scenes and scenarios for dementia patients and helping them to relax, gardens play a crucial role in managing the illness and easing its symptoms, helping to build a better quality of life for those suffering from dementia.



How to take care of your garden when travelling

Everyone looks forward to a summer holiday abroad but for keen gardeners a week or longer away from home during the peak of summer can take its toll on a beautiful outdoor space. As you might expect, in order to keep your garden healthy whilst you are away, preparation is key. Read on for hints and tips on how to ensure you'll find a healthy lawn and garden on your return.

1. Enlist the help of friends and family
Whether you are relying on the help of a sibling or have a willing neighbour at hand, never underestimate the difference their help can make! For gardeners worried about their prize vegetables or beautiful blooms, having someone to water them regularly and protect them from hungry pests is worth its weight in gold. For the community minded a gardening time share might also be something to consider.

2. Protect vulnerable plants from the elements
With hot temperatures and unforeseen showers threatening to ruin your garden whilst you are away, it really pays to investigate all your options. If you are considering landscaping for example, there are many advantages to installing wooden fencing. Alternatively, growing conifers to create shade or building a greenhouse or bedding vulnerable plants like strawberries with straw are all excellent ways to protect helpless vegetation.

3. Water thoroughly
The day before you head off, make sure you give the lawn a mow followed by a good soak. Trimming the grass to a slightly shorter length means it won't need as much water but also ensures it won't burn during a sudden sunny spell. Whilst you are away, sprinklers or a few inches of mulch are a great way to ensure plants and grasses stay hydrated.

4. Safeguard plants from direct sunlight
Before you leave, move all of your containers and hanging plants away from direct sunlight and place them in an area of dim shade. During your absence, this will slow down their growth and lessen the amount of water that they require. Remove bottom trays to prevent plant roots rotting and prune any darkening leaves to enable the plant to conserve its reserves.

5. Check for problems
Always do a quick check the week before you leave and try to take care of any problems you can upfront. For example, signs of fungus, aphid infestation or animal pests can be addressed with pesticide sprays or temporary fencing.