Sunday, 21 November 2010

Bulb planting

Had such a great morning yesterday.  Myself and a couple of friends from work hosted a bulb planting session at the care home where we're working with residents with dementia.  We'd gathered a group of the residents, care staff, relatives, young people and others from the community to plant a mixture of daffodils, crocuses, lilacs, tulips and Glory-of-the-snow in the garden.  Turf squares had already been cut in advance so that we didn't waste too much time and could get straight into planting the bulbs.

It was just so great to see the residents looking forward to being outside.  Because the outer garden area of the home has open access to the road, they spend very little time in their garden.   This is something we are changing as part of the project; demonstrating to the care staff that time spent outside is so important to people's well-being that it shouldn't be seen as an 'add on' to their normal daily routines, and by that I mean for both the residents and themselves.  

It only took about an hour and a half to do the planting but that was long enough for the residents and they were quite ready to go back inside once we'd finished.  So many rosy cheeks, so much conversation and laughter.  It felt just like it was, a morning spent with friends in the sunshine, doing something fun that would give us more enjoyment in the months to come.

One resident (I'll just call her 'R') is an ex-marathon runner and has been known to run off down the street when taken outside before, even making it difficult for fit and healthy care staff to catch her!  The care staff weren't keen on bringing R out to participate because of the risk of her running off, but we persuaded them to try and it was so worthwhile that we did.  She didn't once make a run towards the entrance, she was too busy enjoying herself in the garden, chatting with the member of staff who was planting with her and watching others planting their bulbs.  After R had planted all her bulbs, she asked to go back in for a cup of tea, and as she passed me she had the biggest grin on her face that I knew it had been worth it.

Another resident was a very keen gardener when he was younger.  E is 90 now and has been a bit of star in the project.  He's given radio interviews and had his picture in the paper, talking about his days as a gardener and how his favourite flower is  the Chrysanthemum which he used to grow for competitions.  E's eyesight is very poor and he can't bend down far these days, but we weren't going to let that reduce the level of his involvement.  Working with the guidance of a youngster he planted a whole row of bulbs.  It was a bit like watching an episode of 'The Golden Shot' (remember that game show?), with the young lad calling "Left a bit, right a bit" until E had his hand right over the hole then he'd drop the bulbs in and his assistant would cover them over.  They talked together as they planted and walked around the garden.  I think they're building up a real friendship, and it doesn't matter if E doesn't remember his helper the next time they meet - he'll feel a familiarity with the young lad that will make him feel safe and comfortable in his company.

You see, we're as bad at wrapping older people with dementia up in cotton wool as we are our kids these days.  We assume that people with dementia are unable to do so many things and yet when we let them take the lead (letting them know that there's support available should they need it), they show us that they're more capable than we think they are.  Particularly when it comes to being creative or using skills that they're familiar with.

Isn't it time we took the stabilisers off their bikes and allowed them to wobble a bit?  Because if we did, the obvious look of joy on their faces would put a smile on ours too.  Sometimes a risk is worth taking.



bowledover said...

Hi there. Well done it sounds like you were the right people, at the right time and in the right place.
Did you watch a programme called the Young Ones a few weeks back with Lionel Blair and others.
It showed just what you are saying.
If you smother the older generation, in the name of "elf and safety", they are robbed of their get up and go or independence.

bowledover said...

Salt dough is a good medium for Christmas decorations and paints a treat.
It takes varnish as well.
Dough fruits with a clove in the base, representing the flower head end.
Christmas dough wreaths, using cookie cutters for shapes and then threading them on your wreath.
Slim branches tied together and painted white. Reflect any light shining on them.Pumpkins and squash look festive they too take varnish well. Metal coat hangers bent form lovely shapes for a base.

Sensory Dragon said...

Thanks Bowledover, I knew you'd have some good ideas! Unfortunately I missed the Young Ones programme but I heard all about it. Maybe they'll repeat it and I can catch it second time around. It' time we stopped talking about what people with dementia can't do and start celebrating and encouraging what they can do.

Claire said...

Loved hearing about your bulb planting with the older folks. Bet they really enjoyed that - it's great that they had that opportunity to do something out of the day to day routine and outdoors. Doing activities like that in the fresh air just makes everyone feel better and gives a sense of purpose and belonging. Loved the immagery of resident R (glad she didn't pole vault over hedge or leg it) and also the resident with limited vision with the youngster. Very heartwarming. I help care for my registered blind next door neighbour, who is over 35 years my senior, so I still do feel the youngster! It does feel a bit like how you described sometimes! Trying to guide him to sign his name for instance, up a bit, right a bit, go! Great blog post Sensory Dragon, really enjoyed reading it.

Sensory Dragon said...

Thanks Claire - glad you enjoyed reading it. I'm hoping to write more about these types of activities in the future, just to share with people the great benefit of doing meaningful outdoor activities. Like you said, it's something we all benefit from.