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Gardens and music help reduce agitation in care homes

Did you know: Gardens and mealtime music in care homes can improve lives for dementia residents

Around a third of people with dementia in the UK are cared for within long term care or nursing homes. Opportunities to help people to feel better without the use of medication are important.

3. Gardens and mealtime music in care homes can improve lives for dementia residents

Around a third of people with dementia in the UK are cared for within long term care or nursing homes. Opportunities to help people to feel better without the use of medication are important.

Spending time in a garden or outdoor space can be relaxing and calming for residents of care homes, their families and staff.

A systematic review (a study that brings together all existing research on a particular question) lead by the PenCLAHRC Evidence Synthesis Team from the University of Exeter Medical School found 17 small studies that looked at the impact of horticultural therapy on the wellbeing of people with dementia with three of them looking at the impact of horticultural therapy on the wellbeing of people with dementia.

The key findings were:

  • There was a promising impact on the level of agitation in care home residents with dementia who spend time in a garden.
  • Gardens need to offer a range of experiences to suit different needs.
  • Families valued somewhere pleasant to meet that stimulated interest and conversation.
  • Staff said residents found the gardens calming.
  • However, there were some barriers to use, such as the perception of the garden as a hazard and sometimes limited staff time for supervision.

The same team carried out a review around mealtimes, when any.  agitated or aggressive behaviours tend to occur. A systematic review of 11 studies looked at small, inexpensive changes, and found that they could make a positive impact.  They found that playing relaxing music had a particularly long-lasting effect, beyond that of the mealtime itself.

 The research suggests that simple alterations such as mealtime music and access to gardens could make a significant difference to people with dementia. Further work in this area should focus on measuring key concerns in consistent ways, and on understanding and solving the causes of limited accessibility.

In a similar vein, the team has recently been awarded Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding to develop a training toolkit that helps care home staff improve residents’ access to nature.

Dr Jo Thompson Coon, Associate Professor and Dr Rebecca Whear, Research Fellow, Evidence Synthesis Team, University of Exeter Medical School.

#3 in our series Five Ways People Can Act on Dementia. Follow our Dementia Awareness Week social media campaign all this week on #ExeterDementia #DAW17

Date: 12 May 2017

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