Gardening as a treatment for dementia

GardeningResearchers believe nearly 4 million Americans over age 60 suffer from some form of dementia.  Their symptoms may include memory loss, impaired judgment and reasoning, loss of communication skills, agitation and paranoia.

For now, there are no know treatments for dementia. But a new systematic review suggestions one activity that may be helpful for dementia patients: gardening.

For the analysis, researchers identified 17 studies that looked at how gardening impacted residents with dementia in long-term care settings. Of the studies they included nine were quantitative, seven were qualitative, and one used mixed methods. They concluded that spending time in gardens was linked to decreased levels of agitation for residents with dementia patients.

“This line of research certainly merits further investigation,” said Nancy Wells, an environmental psychologist at the College of Human Ecology. ” A variety of studies, across the life course, has documented the beneficial effects of nature views and nature access on social, cognitive, and psychological outcomes.  Gardening shows promise as a relatively low-cost intervention strategy that can help to mitigate the symptoms of dementia.,”

The review does note that it is difficult to fully measure the impact a garden has on patients, and most of the studies in the review were poor quality. They suggest in the future researcher use standardized measurements of dementia symptoms so that data can be compared across studies.

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