A recently published study on “nature bathing” showed that spending time in nature provides tremendous benefits for both perceived and physiological states of calm in the body. On a subjective level, participants in this study felt calmer after being in nature. Objectively, both cortisol (a stress hormone) and blood pressure levels were lower after subjects spent time in the great outdoors.
Why does this study matter for Alzheimer and dementia affected individuals? Experiencing stress and anxiety is common for people with Alzheimer’s. Anything that can safely mitigate stress and anxiety can be very beneficial for individuals with cognitive decline.
There are a few special considerations when setting up outdoor spaces for older adults. Read more below about how to create the ideal patio or garden for your loved one to experience the calming effect of nature.
Safe and Inviting Outdoor Spaces in Assisted Living Communities
At Bay View Assisted Living in San Diego, California (as well as at our partner locations Mesa View Senior Assisted Living and Harbor View Senior Assisted Living), we’ve worked hard to create inviting and safe outdoor spaces for the members of our communities. Follow these tips if you want to do the same in your elder care community!
Remove tripping hazards: Make sure there is enough space to comfortably move between pieces of furniture. It’s also important that it’s easy to navigate the area with a walker or cane. Ensure that any outdoor rugs are secured to the ground with tape or a rug pad. Make sure any loose cords are taped to the ground or secured against the wall.
Shade: Sun protection is important at any age, but skin becomes increasingly susceptible to damage as we age. Make sure there is adequate shade covering the outdoor space. If you don’t have built-in shade, umbrellas and sails are both easy options to provide shade. You can also dress your loved one in a light long sleeve top and wide brimmed hat for additional sun protection.
Hydration: Especially in the warmer months, finding hydration solutions is extremely important if older adults are going to spend time outdoors. Flavoring water with a little lemon, mint, or cucumber can make it more appealing to drink. Fruits and vegetables like apples, berries, kiwi, tomatoes, and greens have high water content and can be a great way to get extra hydration throughout the day. Keep a close eye on your loved one’s water intake, especially if they are spending time outdoors.
Heat Considerations: As individuals with Alzheimer’s may not be able to identify if they are overheating, make sure to monitor the temperature. If your loved one looks flushed or faint at all, bring them inside into a cool room. As we age it can become more difficult to regulate internal temperatures. Don’t leave someone with cognitive decline unattended in warmer weather as they could become faint. Additionally, make sure they are well supported when standing up after sitting outside. This is a common time for falls to occur.
Aesthetics Matter in Elder Care Communities At Bay View Assisted Living (and at our sister locations, Mesa View Senior Assisted Living and Harbor View Senior Assisted Living) we care about the physical environment that surrounds the members of our elder care communities. Research shows that aesthetics have a genuine impact on joy (check out the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee to learn more). We work hard to maintain beautiful and calming spaces for our residents, all part of the BayView lifestyle!