Patients with dementia can look forward to a beneficial therapeutic garden thanks to a new project that is underway at the Priestley Unit, Dewsbury & District Hospital, run by the South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust.

Staff on Ward 17 have formed a working group to develop an enclosed courtyard into a therapeutic garden area. The work will enhance the assessment and care of patients with dementia on Ward 17, allowing an opportunity for therapeutic activity, assessment, stimulation and relaxation as appropriate. The area will also be utilised by families wanting to spend more time with their relatives.

The working group is made up of a variety of staff from Ward 17 and have made great progress since they first met. Staff, on all levels, patients and carers have all been consulted about the proposed garden area and have contributed ideas and suggestions for its development. Staff have contributed ideas through a variety of channels including a graffiti board, on which they can write suggestions.

Patients have contributed ideas during consultations and reminiscence sessions. Some of the things they have said include: ‘I like roses, I had roses in my bouquet’, ‘I remember blowing fairy clocks to tell the time’, ‘I like daffodils, the way they nod their heads’. Patients on the Ward have also been growing plants and have been on visits to garden centres, which is all part of the consultation process.

North American research has shown that 95% of people with dementia report a positive mood change after sitting in a garden. Gardens can provide an exposure to natural light (vitamin D is very important) and a place for familiar activities such as hanging out washing or gardening. To help design the garden, the group has enlisted the help of Annie Pollock of Arterre. Annie has extensive experience of designing gardens for people with dementia, including The Iris Murdoch Garden at Stirling University (Dementia Services Development Centre) and many other projects in hospital, sheltered housing and long term care settings.

The garden will be multi-sensory and take account of the requirement to provide both a safe space, yet also a private one. The space will be carefully utilised to make sure people do not feel imprisoned, also incorporating doorways and gates to give patients a feeling of achievement and going somewhere. There will also be a reminiscence area that will incorporate items such as a pulley cart, once used in textile mills, which are an important part of Dewsbury’s history. People with dementia often retain their long-term memory when the short term day-to-day memory fails. Items such as a pulley cart may help to trigger memories from the past.

The working group is hoping that local businesses and groups may get involved in the development of the garden and they have also received donations from relatives of patients. Lynda Holroyd, occupational therapy technical instructor, has been involved in planning the garden since the very beginning and explains why it is such an important piece of work. She said, ‘The garden will provide a haven of peace for many of our patients, improving their quality of life and health. The importance of the patients being involved with every stage of the project is vital as it gives them a chance to contribute to the ward and their environment’.


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