By Sarah Scott, DOR, Draper Rehabilitation and Care, Draper, UT
If you ask many of the residents what they enjoyed doing during their life, there is a good chance gardening or tending plants is going to be at least one of the answers. If you ask them to describe their home, you will likely hear about their garden and what they used to grow.
The Therapy department discussed the best way to restore the “homelike environment” at Draper to include a resident garden as a feature of our Abilities Care Programming. After discussing options, we were no closer to knowing how to build a planting table or box where our residents could access their potential garden.
We consulted a community friend, retired BYU professor and avid gardener Carl Harris, asking for guidance and direction. He came to Draper Rehab, and several residents volunteered to be measured in their chairs so he would know the height a potential table would need to accommodate.
Carl built us tables of cedar to withstand the elements.
The next hurdle was to determine the easiest way to give each resident access to a garden box they could work on. We tested this concept with therapy garden boxes we placed on the dining room tables. The residents happily planted flowers, as it is too late in the season to plant vegetables. They discussed the depth of the boxes we had and determined the height we would need is just over 7 inches and not the 14 inches our garden boxes are. A lower box height would allow the residents easier access to plant and tend their plants. The boxes will be smaller so they can be moved around the table to accommodate all interested residents, who will have access to their boxes while they are working in the garden.
They chatted with each other about how to plant, what they planted, what their gardens were like, the keys to a good garden, each step they needed to take, and how good it felt to have their “hands in the dirt.”
Our residents are proudly watering their flowers and talking about what they will plant in the Spring. So far, they have aspirations for tomatoes, a salsa garden, flowers, strawberries, and cucumbers. After thinking for a minute, one resident said, “I will plant impatiens because they fit me and we are both beautiful!”
These tasks strengthen and preserve essential skills, including dynamic standing balance, sequencing, following directions, depth perception, problem-solving, memory, core stability/strength, manual dexterity, shoulder ROM and strength. They improve mental health and have other benefits. Very few residents of our facilities are not on therapy services to improve or maintain these abilities.
When we find meaningful activities, give residents ownership, facilitate their successful participation, and restore an aspect of their “home environment,” we give a piece of their lives back to them and improve their health and well-being at the same time. That is everything.