Gardening sessions are ‘highlight of week’ for dementia patients and BRI staff

  • 21st May 2024

For those living with dementia, a stay in hospital can be a difficult time with a change in routine, loud noises, bright lights and time away from loved ones. Alive, a member of our Dementia Health Integration Team, has been working in partnership with Bristol and Weston Hospitals Charity and the dementia team at the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) to create a positive experience for those living with dementia who find themselves in hospital.

Using outdoor and indoor space, every Wednesday afternoon, gardening sessions have become the highlight of the week, both for patients and staff.   With the help and support of Alive facilitators and BRI staff, patients are able to leave the ward and experience the magic that horticultural therapy can bring. Activities such as wreath making, planting, and potting on allow patients to have a real purpose to their day, as well as spending time with others, or their loved ones.

A barren concrete rectangle has been transformed into a haven where people can spend time outside, planting, harvesting, digging and planning, and find purpose and peace. If the weather is bad, the garden is brought into the main atrium.

The sessions are having a profound effect on people’s physical and mental wellbeing. One participant said:

“It’s the best thing I’ve done in years with my wife.”

For others, it’s giving them confidence in their own abilities and aiding their discharge:

“I’ve feel so much better I’ve been able to walk to the garden, it’s given me more confidence. I can do things on my own now.”

It’s also enabling staff to see their patients in a a different environment, supporting a holistic assessment. One member of staff said:

“We see such a change in our patients when we bring them to the garden. It’s transformed the ward and how we care for our patients. Some of our patients can be unsettled within the ward area, but when we bring them to the garden, they are calm, and have a brilliant time. We absolutely love it and it’s definitely the highlight of our week.”