Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Horticultural Therapy Effectively Reduces Agitation and Depression in Dementia Patients, Finds New Study

Horticultural Therapy Effectively Reduces Agitation and Depression in Dementia Patients, Finds New Study

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A new study highlights the significant benefits of horticultural therapy (HT) for individuals living with dementia, presenting it as an effective non-pharmacological intervention for managing behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSDs). In order to improve the quality of life for dementia patients and their carers, Matthew J. Wichrowski and Monica Moscovici’s research focuses on combining horticultural therapy with other non-pharmacological practices. The findings were published in the journal Healthcare.

Dementia, a collective term for various conditions characterised by a decline in memory and cognitive function, affects over 55 million people worldwide. The rapid increase in dementia cases, coupled with the high cost of care, underscores the need for innovative and cost-effective care strategies. Managing BPSDs, which include agitation, depression, and anxiety, poses significant challenges for healthcare providers and carers. Traditional pharmacological treatments, while helpful, often come with adverse side effects, making non-pharmacological approaches like horticultural therapy increasingly appealing.

Horticultural therapy utilises gardening activities as therapeutic exercises to achieve specific treatment goals. This therapy is grounded in the biophilia hypothesis, which suggests an innate human connection to nature, and the Attention Restoration Theory, which posits that natural environments can help restore cognitive function and alleviate mental fatigue. Studies have shown that exposure to natural environments can significantly improve mood and reduce negative affect, making HT a promising intervention for dementia care.

The study by Wichrowski and Moscovici demonstrates that HT can effectively reduce agitation and depression among dementia patients. By engaging in gardening activities, patients experience a sense of purpose and accomplishment, which can enhance their overall well-being. The physical activity involved in gardening also provides benefits such as improved mobility and strength, which are crucial for maintaining independence.

The implementation of HT can vary depending on the needs and capabilities of dementia patients. Activities can range from simple indoor planting and sensory-based herbal crafts to more elaborate outdoor gardening projects. Memory gardens, specifically designed therapeutic gardens, are particularly effective. These gardens are tailored to provide a safe and stimulating environment, incorporating elements that engage all the senses.

The study highlights the importance of both passive and active participation in HT. Even the presence in a natural setting can provide therapeutic benefits, while hands-on activities offer additional physical and cognitive stimulation. The adaptability of HT makes it suitable for individuals at different stages of dementia, ensuring that the therapy remains relevant and effective across various levels of cognitive decline.

The positive effects of HT extend beyond the patients and their carers. Carers often experience high levels of stress and emotional burden, which can impact their ability to provide effective care. The study notes that engaging carers in HT activities can alleviate some of this stress, improving their mental health and overall caregiving experience. By participating in HT, carers can also develop a deeper connection with the patients, enhancing their empathy and understanding of the patients’ needs.

The study advocates for a shift towards a more person-centered approach in dementia care. HT, with its focus on individualised treatment goals and the holistic well-being of patients, aligns well with this approach. The therapy not only addresses the physical and cognitive symptoms of dementia but also considers the emotional and social aspects of the patients’ lives.

Integrating HT with other non-pharmacological interventions, such as Montessori-based activities and sensory reminiscence therapy, can create a comprehensive care strategy. These combined approaches can provide a supportive and engaging environment, helping to manage BPSDs more effectively.

While the current findings are promising, the study emphasises the need for further research to explore the full potential of HT in dementia care. Future studies should focus on identifying the most effective combinations of HT and other non-pharmacological interventions, assessing their long-term benefits, and developing best practices for implementation across different care settings.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd