Although it is hard to admit, many times we avoid or neglect visiting our elderly parents due to our own discomfort. The social isolation experienced by our frail parents may limit their contribution to the conversation and the weight of the interaction is ours. We can always find busy work to do; yet creating meaningful visits for both you and your parents
often seems elusive.
A recent issue of the Parkinson’s Update, a magazine for the Parkinson’s disease community, had a wonderful article on the benefits of horticultural therapy. Reflecting back on the nursing home tours prior to my mother’s admission, her home of choice was made easy by witnessing the flurry of activity in the attached green house. After touring three nursing homes, my mother stated, “I want the one with the green house.”
In her home, my mother loved to walk the row of her vegetable garden and weed her perennial beds. She passed the winter months searching the seed catalogues and planning her flowerbeds. This love of nurturing and tending to her plants continues even in her nursing home. The onset of spring brings conversations of “setting bedding plants” in the green house to fill the many flowerbeds surrounding the home.
Her room is a collection of wilted plants discovered in her living area or the front lounge, tended by her deft fingers and brought back to health. Although her cognitive abilities are failing, she still loves to deadhead her violets and set a broken leaf in water to root.
These activities give us a point of conversation and a time of sharing, as we repot or divide an overgrown plant. I delight in watching her nimble fingers as they divide and skillfully transfer each section into its new home. Her words may be lost and
unintelligible at times, but we are still communicating.
The author of the article, Mitchell Hewson, the first Registered Horticultural Therapist in Canada, outlines the holistic benefits of horticultural therapy:
- Maintains fine motor skills, such as hand-eye
- Stimulate sensory functions of colour, scent,
- Fragrance and warm sunlight stimulates the area
of the brain that alters depression and stimulates memory
- Validates the time of year or season by planting
seeds, bulbs or other seasonal plants
- Provides a positive, non-threatening environment
to share an activity
- Develops a sense of nurturing , value and
- Encourages social interaction
- Provides meaningful activities and revives old
- Provides point of observation for physical
abilities, balance, and ability to follow-through on task
Whether it be pressing flowers, forcing bulbs, mixing soil or just walking through the park, try to “stop and smell the roses,” the benefits are endless for both you and your elderly parents.
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Caring with Karen