Dementia is a difficult and uncomfortable truth. Unfortunately, many of us will experience it in our lifetime, if not because we must live with it ourselves, then because someone we love will find they have it.
Luckily, there is much research happening around dementia – how to prevent it, how to cure it and how to live with it. It’s this last part of the research we’re particularly interested in at the moment, given that many of the people we take care of are living with dementia.
Back in August, we wrote an article about our brand new dementia garden at Bartlett’s Residential Care Home, a pioneering new project in this area of Buckinghamshire, which was co-designed with the input of our residents. We’ve now sifted through those ideas, as well as the evidence and research around dementia friendly spaces, and development on the new Bartlett’s landscape will begin shortly, for completion next year. The dementia friendly elements of our garden will be subtle, but will have a massive impact on the way our dementia sufferers feel about our outdoor space. If you’re interested in which elements are specially developed, you’ll want to look for some of the following when you visit our new landscape;
The outdoor space will be an extension of the indoor space
For people struggling with dementia stark changes in scenery can be confusing and frightening. Our new garden will be complete with visual and physical access between the inside and outside, a transition between indoors and outdoors that is even under foot, an entrance to the home that is homelike and displays no confronting signage, and pathways that are consistent in colour. All of these elements should make the outdoor space easier to navigate and less confusing for those living with dementia.
Opportunities for walking
There’ll be a continuous looped path, with destination points but no sharp, sudden ends to pathways – as these may confuse or alarm dementia sufferers. The space will be long enough for meaningful exercise and therapeutic benefit, with lots of simple routes to take around the garden and many interesting journeys to have, offering a variety of different activities along the way. There’ll also be motion sensor lighting so that the garden is usable at nighttime.
A new chance for social interaction and engagement with the environment
The gardens will create a variety of new environments and give our residents places to socialise or rest within whatever their mood. There’ll be areas that catch the sun and parts of the garden that are set in the shade, raised flowerbeds to look at, sheds to explore and spaces for animals and children. The garden will be made up of large and small mixed spaces that allow for privacy, whilst also offering the ideal space for engagement with the surrounding community.
The research behind sensory stimulation and dementia is vast. Those living with dementia are calmed and comforted by a range of sensory stimulants in the form of colours, smells and things to touch. Our new gardens will be bursting with flowers, colours, water and textures. There’ll be vegetable gardens and scented plants to stimulate memory. The gardens will be built to seasonal variation, so they’ll look, feel and smell different in the autumn than they do in the spring. The essential core elements will remain, but there’ll always be something new to look at and experience.
We already know that our new gardens are going to be an aspect of Bartlett’s we’ll be very proud of. There’s nothing like them in our local area within care home facilities, they’ll be beautiful, stimulating and easy to access. They’ll give our residents a sense of freedom and an opportunity for engagement with one another and with nature. We hope they’ll become a favoured area of our care home and be a space where people want to relax and interact. We’d like them to host community and care home events, and witness many special occasions. We want them to provide joy, happiness and comfort to residents and visitors of Bartlett’s alike.
Our new garden will be complete in the spring. There’ll be more information and pictures on our garden transformation on our Twitter account, @PeverelCourt.