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Jul 15, 2014 05:33 AM EDT

Gardens Provide Promising Therapeutic Benefits to Dementia Patients

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Gardens in care homes offer positive therapeutic benefits to dementia patients, according to a University of Exeter study.

Researchers said that outdoor garden spaces promote relaxation, encourage activity and lower residents' agitation.

"We think that gardens could be benefitting dementia sufferers by providing them with sensory stimulation and an environment that triggers memories. They not only present an opportunity to relax in a calming setting, but also to remember skills and habits that have brought enjoyment in the past," Lead researcher Rebecca Whear said in a press release.

About 7.7 million new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year. Almost 50 percent of elderly patients living in residential care suffer either from dementia or dementia symptoms. Previous studies have showed therapeutics effect of gardens on dementia patients.

For the study, researchers reviewed 17 studies and found that gardens also enhance well-being of residents and staff, and provide welcome spaces for interaction with visitors that helps stimulate memories in dementia patients.

"There's a lot we don't know about how a garden's design and setting influences its ability to affect wellbeing, yet it's clear that these spaces need to offer a range of ways of interacting - to suit different people's preferences and needs. We want to pursue these answers to ensure that care experiences can be maximised for sufferers of dementia, their carers and families," said Dr Ruth Garside, an expert in evidence synthesis and one of the paper's authors.

The finding is published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

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