Is your garden dementia friendly?

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve just released a new environmental assessment tool, ‘Is your garden dementia friendly? An Environmental Assessment Tool for Health and Care Settings’. As with our existing environmental assessment tools it’s free to download from our website, but we thought we’d use this blog to give a bit of background to the tool.

The front cover of the tool

Why was it needed?

The existing suite of environmental assessment tools covers a range of different health and care settings, and although there is reference to gardens and outdoor spaces, their main focus has been on the indoor environment. As the past 18 months has reinforced, access to and use of outdoors spaces are critical and just as important to the wellbeing of people living with dementia, but can sometimes be overlooked or taken for granted. We need to put just as much thought into their design and planning to make sure that outdoor spaces are safe and appropriate to be accessed and used by people living with dementia.

How was it developed?

The work was led by Sarah Waller CBE who was heavily involved in the development of the existing environmental assessment tools. Although we already have experience and knowledge within the Association for Dementia Studies, a review of current literature was carried out to ensure that all relevant and up-to-date information and advice was incorporated into the new tool. Subsequently, an initial version of the tool was developed using the same overarching format as the existing assessment tools. This is a tried and tested format and means that the new tool will align with the others as part of our suite of tools, and therefore be familiar to users.

A consultation was undertaken with a variety of relevant parties in different health and care settings to test the new assessment tool. This aimed to ensure that it will be applicable to as many settings as possible, actually works in practice, and includes the right content. It also offered an opportunity to identify any areas that might have been missed. The positive feedback received during the consultation confirmed that the tool could be used effectively across all care settings, including hospitals, care homes and supported housing. We were also able to amend or clarify specific questions as appropriate. We would like to thank everyone who took part in the consultation for their comments, which have ultimately strengthened the tool and made it more applicable to practice.

“It gives clear guidance with regard what to look for and plan in the space to assist in making dementia friendly.”

“It has given me some inspiration and made me think differently about our garden and how we may be able to improve it for residents living with dementia.”

Overview of the tool

As it follows the same format as the existing assessment tools, the new gardens tool starts with an introduction to explain the importance of outdoor spaces, some of the principles of dementia friendly design, and an overview of how to use the tool. It proceeds to cover seven key areas, the majority of which will be familiar to those who use the current tools. Each area comprises a rationale of why it is relevant to people living with dementia and a series of questions to get you thinking about your outdoor spaces. The key areas are:

  • The environment promotes wellbeing
  • The environment promotes meaningful interaction and purposeful activity between people, their families and staff
  • The environment encourages engagement with the senses
  • The environment promotes connection with nature and the natural world
  • The environment promotes orientation and wayfinding
  • The environment promotes mobility
  • The environment promotes calm, safety and security

The assessment tool concludes with a summary sheet where you can gain an overview of your responses, together with the overarching design principles for gardens and outdoor spaces.

Image showing an example of two pages from the tool

How can you get hold of a copy?

The gardens assessment tool is now available via our website, where you can download it for free alongside any of the other five tools in our suite of environmental assessment tools. If you want more information or advice on how to use the tool, please see one of our previous blogs or get in touch with us

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow

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