With National Gardening Week and the Chelsea Flower Show fresh in our minds, the benefit of having access to outside space of any size or shape cannot be exaggerated. Whether it’s to sit and smell the roses or to plant rows of carrots for the kitchen, time spent in a garden has many health and wellbeing benefits. Having a garden or outside space in a care home or nursing home helps to provide an environment that stimulates all of the senses and supports the ongoing care of patients in many ways. Patients can get involved in gardening or they can enjoy the time in the fresh air and pleasant surroundings.
So what are the benefits of gardening?
Gardening helps to:
- strengthen the body especially bones, joints and muscles which in turn can help to improve balance and cut down on falls
- lower blood pressure
- improve dexterity
- reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease
- reduce anxiety
- improve relaxation and create a positive state of mind
- get some time in the fresh air – and being in sunlight helps the skin to produce vitamin D, essential for healthy bones
- allow residents enjoy the peace of their own company or the camaraderie of others.
How can I create a garden in a care home?
A garden in a care home primarily needs to be a safe environment, designed to support the different physical or mental issues that patients may have.
A care home garden can also help to create a positive impression for any potential residents and their families and can be a pleasant environment for staff to work in.
Gardening charity Thrive has produced a series of top tips for gardening with a disability, from gardening from a wheelchair, to gardening after a stroke, to gardening when you are blind or partially sighted http://www.carryongardening.org.uk/
In this Nursing Times article Trellis, a charity creating care home gardens in Scotland, highlights the benefits of a garden in a nursing home for people living with dementia. https://www.nursingtimes.net/clinical-archive/care-sector/benefits-of-a-gardening-project-for-people-with-dementia-in-nursing%20homes/7022783.article?blocktitle=The-clinical-team-recommends...&contentID=25180
The disadvantages of a care home garden
The advantages of a garden far outweigh the disadvantages, but you do need to consider budget, expenditure and time when thinking about creating a garden:
- initial costs for creating the garden including hard landscaping and buying plants
- you may need to employ someone to carry out day to day tasks such as cutting grass, landscape maintenance, pond maintenance
What plants should I grow in a care home garden?
Whether you chose to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables, herbs or a mixture there are lots of advantages to ‘grow your own’:
- Flowers can be picked and used to brighten up the inside of the nursing home.
- Fruit, vegetables and herbs can be used in the care home kitchen to create home grown meals.
- Plants can be used to in the garden to encourage insects, birds and butterflies to create a natural wildlife haven that everyone can enjoy.
- When organising your planting you need to be aware of plants that may irritate or be hazardous if touched or eaten. Check out this list of potential harmful garden plants from the Royal Horticultural Society https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=524
Stay safe in the care home garden
It’s advisable to protect patients when they are out in garden, especially on a sunny day by remembering the following tips:
- wear a hat and use a sunscreen
- have insect repellent to hand just in case.
- be aware of any patient allergies that may be made worse by being outside eg hayfever or any potential reactions to insect stings or plants
- encourage patients to drink lots of water and keep hydrated… and make sure staff drink enough too!
- use gardening gloves to protect the hands