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Get a Breath of Fresh Air: The Benefits of Nature for Dementia Patients

benefits of nature

For dementia patients, it often seems like there’s not much hope.

That means anything that offers some benefits to them is a great thing.

Recent studies have shown the benefits of nature for those suffering from dementia.

While it’s not a fix, the advantages offered by regular outdoor activities had drastic effects on sufferers. If you’re interested in this exciting new development then read on and we’ll discuss the research and what kind of activities are ideal for those who are afflicted with dementia.

Improved Emotional Well Being

Dementia is an insidious disease. In addition to harming a person’s reasoning skills, it’s also tied to depression and other mental illness.

Compounded with dementia itself, this causes many problems for both those who suffer and those who care about them.

Fortunately, it appears that outdoor spaces are great for a dementia patient’s well being. Apart from general mood improvement, it’s been found that some activities also help to give the patient a sense of purpose and rebuilds their self-confidence.

Since dementia is so frequently co-morbid with mental illness, anything which helps should be applied. The key is to increase the quality of life for those who suffer from any form of dementia, and outdoor activities seem to be one sure way to do that.

Better Physical Health

It seems obvious: people who are more active are going to be in better physical health.

The activities recommended for patients are often quite mild, we’re not talking about a full cardio routine here.

Apart from general fitness, there are some surprising side benefits.

Those who spend time outdoors regularly seem to sleep better, have better skin, and generally are in much better health than those who are sedentary. It’s not just physical fitness but overall general health which is improved.

Mild exercise is important for those with dementia and getting outdoors for a walk is a much more entertaining proposition than most of the ways people keep fit.

Increased Opportunities for Socialization

Quite often, dementia patients end up isolated, particularly if they end up in a residential care facility. The effects can get pretty drastic, leaving those who suffer feeling alone and depressed even if there’s no physiological reason for the depression.

The benefits of socialization for those who have Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia are staggering.

Frequent social interaction can help to keep a patient’s cognitive decline in check and helps the sufferer to remain independent. You’ll recognize those as two of the largest problems which occur in those with dementia.

Recommended Activities

The list of activities which are recommended for those with dementia is fairly long, but most of it is relatively mundane. We’re not talking about rock climbing or whitewater rafting in this case.

Instead, gentle approaches to just getting outside are the way to go.

Walking was among the most commonly reported activities, along with things like bird watching. Also popular among patients and those who care for them were trips to parks and urban forests.

Even residential treatment facilities sometimes have gardens for their patients.

Indeed, gardening is often one of the most recommended activities for those with memory loss. In addition to getting someone outdoors, it’s a goal-oriented activity that can help to maintain a sense of purpose and there’s a visual indication of progress as things move along.

The general idea is to keep it light and easy on the physical side while increasing the chances for mental stimulation and social interaction for the patient.

There is some concern among caregivers about whether or not their patients are safe outdoors. In most cases, this fear is overblown. But in cases where there’s another physical or serious mental condition present, it’s a good idea to be cautious. 

Surmounting Obstacles

If your loved one isn’t in an assisted living facility with outdoor access then there are some problems with getting out regularly.

One of the most cited problems amongst those with dementia was the concern about transportation. Few dementia patients maintain their driver’s license which means they’re not exactly in a position to head out for a hike on their own. Especially since dementia can be a disqualifying condition for their license.

The other major issue is that many people simply don’t have someone to go with.

If you’re trying to get your afflicted loved one out to enjoy the benefits of nature, then you’re going to need to supply a ride and make sure that someone is out there with them.

Arranging for even weekly outings can have a big impact on the patient. Allow for opportunities to socialize during the trip. Make it a family get-together or bring along some of their friends.

While it’s true that many patients have lost much of their independence, getting them outdoors once in a while isn’t an insurmountable problem. It just takes a bit of planning.

Enjoying the Benefits of Nature

The benefits of nature apply to pretty much everyone, but increasing evidence shows that it’s particularly important for those who suffer from dementia. By getting your loved one out and about they’ll enjoy better mental and physical health. Add in some socialization and you’re on a clear winning streak.

Of course, not everyone is able to arrange for regular outings. Caring for a loved one in cognitive decline is hard and time-consuming.

If you’re finding it hard to aid your loved one through their daily routine then it may be time to look into an assisted living facility. Why not get ready by giving one of our residential facilities a tour?