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many questions we have had to consider, through a thorough and empathetic understanding of the condition. We ask every person using our potential spaces: Can you get out? Can you self-organise? Do you feel safe? Can you recognise the door to get back in? Gardens must also be designed so they help staff work to their maximum capabilities and work for families who are visiting.

Amore Care has engaged a range of designers and dementia experts in the design of our dementia gardens, with lessons learnt at every stage. For

Gardens can help combat the effects of declining cognitive ability, while promoting self-worth, a social identity, and exercise.

example, glass doors are not suitable for our residents, and continual pathways – without a break in colour – work best for those with dementia.

national awards across the group throughout 2014.

In line with our ‘Creative Minds’ strategy, we were thrilled to see the rise in demand and enthusiasm for the dementia garden, but we saw the ‘touch’ and ‘smell’ element as only a small factor in the overall aim. The gardens need investment, a factor which has been recognised across all 43 homes this year, to ensure we have spaces to meet the needs of our residents, planters at the correct level, colours receptive to our residents and specific layouts which take into account sensory and cognitive decline.

In co-ordinating the design of Amore Care dementia gardens, there are

Home manager Karen McElherron of Carlingford Lodge care home in County Down, Northern Ireland, has recently been involved in the design of a beautiful café and adjoining dementia garden. She described the process: “The welfare and wellbeing of our residents is of ultimate importance and we are delighted that dementia residents have the opportunity to enjoy the specifically- designed and safe environment of the, dementia garden.

“It provides a therapeutic environment for our residents to address some of the challenges associated with dementia, namely the loss of memory, independence, initiative and the ability to participate in social activities in a meaningful and focused manner.

“As memory and cognitive functions decline, our residents function more on a sensory level. The redeveloped dementia garden gives them the opportunity to hear and experience sounds and smells of the garden

through trellis features and plants, as well as enabling those who are able to become actively involved in gardening.”

She added: “Dementia requires stimulation of activity, which can come in many ways. The physical action of gardening is suitable for many of our residents, whilst other residents like to sit and relax in the garden in a more passive way.

“Divided into two sections, the garden features many different aspects laid out in a format that is easy to understand – with key areas and mapping points that can be easily remembered such as seats, shady locations and simple walkways.”

The benefits of dementia gardens to our service users and community members are plentiful. To see our residents enjoy the garden, from the smells and textures to planting seeds and following them to fruition, can bring joy all around.

During the summer, our residents enjoy sitting outside with family and friends or simply tending to their projects in the garden. Raised planting beds allow people of all abilities to meaningfully engage in a focused and highly enjoyable activity.

I passionately believe that Amore Care dementia gardens stimulate every sense. There should be a variety of sights, smells, textures and even tastes. We have incorporated each of these themes into our dementia gardens. Through engaging with local experts, we have chosen non-toxic plants to ensure that those who are tempted by the gorgeous blooming flowers are not harmed should they wish to give them a taste.

Gardens should provide an atmosphere of serenity that provide an escape, with opportunities for multiple stimulation away from the constraints of a dementia diagnosis.

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