Laura Spicer, daughter, says:
"Mum really benefited from her weekly visits to Breathing Spaces. She was
diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2009, and although she is physically very
able, her short term memory has gone. It is very much about her enjoying
the moment. She used to be a keen gardener, but has now 'forgotten' how to
do simple gardening tasks on her own, and when I had tried to get her to
help me in our own garden, she was easily distracted and tended to down
tools and wander off back into the house after a few minutes. Amazingly,
after a few visits to Breathing Spaces, Claire and Lisa managed to get Mum
helping them in the garden at the Maybridge Centre and she did so with
enthusiasm and much enjoyment. This provided a much-needed break for me to
get a few things done, have some time out from caring and return to find Mum
relaxed and happy. It was good to see her with a 'purpose' and feeling that
she was being helpful.
I truly admire Claire and Lisa for their warm, caring
nature, both are very patient, kind, calm with wonderful positive energy
that seems to rub off on everybody attending their sessions.
Unfortunately, Mum had to move into permanent residential care as it proved
impossible to keep her safe, so she no longer attends Breathing Spaces. I
would absolutely recommend this group and think that Claire and Lisa work
Margery came to our sessions at the Maybridge Keystone Centre for seven months. When she started with us, the weekly sessions were 1-hour duration and often
indoors and then became 3 hours outdoors.
How was gardening therapy beneficial to Margery during the seven months we worked with her?
- Margery often responded with delight, curiosity and wonder to the stimulation of seasonal and sensory plants and flowers. She seemed to sense and
express something of the spirit of particular plants. For example, talking about their roots spiralling into the earth and empathising with their effort to grow.
- Margery was especially aware of and delighted by trees, the sky, birds and sunshine, so the outdoor three-hour sessions were where the most benefit occurred. When
Margery started with us, she would often become anxious to leave before the session ended. It became increasingly rare for her to ask to leave and she was often slightly reluctant to
go when collected.
- The garden is consciously designed as a reassuring but stimulating natural space and Margery responded to these qualities both in her behaviour and in words. She
would admire the garden and say how much she loved the curve of the circular path. When we went into the main building to visit the toilet, this made her anxious and when we returned to the garden
she would relax again. She said on more than one occasion, “Ah, we are back in our safe space”.
- Margery enjoyed being busy and occupied in meaningful gardening. We would balance time spent enjoying nature with doing achievable practical, productive
tasks. She expressed eagerness to do the tasks and seemed satisfied with her achievements. In one of the later sessions she told another client about how she looked after the garden,
showing pride and a sense of ownership.
- Margery was quite self-contained when she started the sessions but increasingly she became more at ease with other people, even seeking out and
enjoying their company. For example, she approached another client, unprompted, to ask for water from the hose they were using. She listened to others talking at lunch, asking them questions with
interest. She started to offer her own stories, talking about her father, where she grew up in the countryside and time spent abroad.
To summarise, the beneficial outcomes whilst Margery attended the sessions were:
- active enjoyment
- sensory and cognitive stimulation
- positive experience
- sociable interaction
- reduced anxiety
- a sense of achievement and agency
Tony came to our weekly sessions at the Maybridge Keystone Centre for over a year but went into residential care when his carer became ill.
How did gardening therapy make a difference to how Tony was able to live with dementia?
- Tony was an active and practical man, used to working with his hands, so the outdoor sessions in the garden were more beneficial than seated,
indoor table-top sessions. We were able to give Tony ‘bigger’, manual tasks that he was most comfortable with, for example, cutting the grass and hedges, rolling the pathways, sweeping leaves,
wheel-barrowing wood chip, digging etc. As soon as he arrived he wanted to start work and these are the kinds of task that he knew how to do and was happy to continue with for a long time. He showed
a sense of satisfaction and ownership that he had an impact and contributed to making the garden look better.
- Tony loved being outdoors and having been skilled in TV set construction he responded positively to the rustic timber features of the garden. For
example, he noticed and took pleasure in the quality of the wooden seats, the large raised beds, the handrail. He talked about the garden with pride and
appreciation. For example, he thought lots of people will want to visit.
- Tony used to like to be given a task that he could work on alone. Soon he seemed to welcome the chance to work with one of us, even stopping for
a chat now and again.
- Tony used to be very uneasy with other people. He didn’t want to sit down with the group when we took a break for coffee or lunch and would sit apart and finish
quickly to return to his task. Over the weeks Tony became much more at ease with everyone. He sat with us and was usually happy to remain for much longer than previously, enjoying the
sociable aspect of the group.
- As Tony became less anxious during the sessions, he initiated conversations and communicated his feelings to us. He said the garden works well
because there is a place in it for whatever mood you are in – for example, you can be alone or with people.
- We understand from his wife Dot that Tony looked forward to coming to the sessions and that he missed it when he couldn't come. When he was
having difficulties sometimes before he arrived, he quickly settled into the session and his mood improved.
To summarise, the beneficial outcomes for Tony were:
- being active and purposeful
- positive experience, satisfaction and pleasurable anticipation
- reduced anxiety
- sociable interaction and increased communication
- sensory and cognitive stimulation
We ran an 8 week course on Mindful Gardening for people with mental health challenges in 2016.
40% of the participants who completed feedback forms said they felt they had made significant progress in their recovery, 20% had made good progress, 20% some progress
and 20% were not sure. No one said they had made little or no progress.
"This has been far more helpful than I could ever have thought for my mental health."
"Great course for anxiety, stress and depression."
"Feel less alone/isolated."
Several of the participants continue to garden with us at the community allotment.