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Summer 2010 Newsletter

Linking People and Plants

Introduction to Horticultural Therapy offered in Three Locations

Learn how to combine a passion for gardening and helping people through the innovative field of horticultural therapy. Join students from across the country to learn more by enrolling in Introduction to Horticultural Therapy this fall. The class will be offered in three separate locations this fall, beginning with September 23-26, 2010 in beautiful Half Moon Bay, CA at the Elkus Ranch. Again, November 4-7, 2010 in Denver at the Anchor Center for Blind Children and lastly, November 11-14, 2010 at the Matthaei Botanical Garden in Ann Arbor, MI

Horticultural Therapy in the Dementia Care Setting

By Cynthia Wildfong, LCSW, HTR

It has been my privilege for the last 5 years to provide garden programs and spaces to elders with dementia in the long term care (LTC) setting. I have learned as a horticultural therapist, how beneficial and uplifting gardens and plants are for those living with dementia. I was hired to work in these environments as a social worker and then with the help of social work interns from the University of Denver, masters program, we were able to create ongoing and successful garden programs.

When I started working in LTC environments, I learned of an exciting and challenging new philosophy for LTC, called Culture Change. For many years if the elderly ended up in LTC facilities they became the passive recipients of regulated care based on a medical model of service. If they were not passive or willing to cooperate with care, LTC environments were designed to control behavior. The Culture Change philosophy developed to combat the plagues of loneliness; helplessness and boredom that developed in these long-term care facilities for elders who no longer had choice or quality of life. The two major players guiding the LTC journey into Culture Change are the Pioneer Network and the Eden Alternative.

Rebecca Haller, HTM, director, HT Institute, and I were fortunate to attend the recent Eden Alternative convention in Denver and were excited to attend a presentation by Jack Carmen, landscape architect. Carmen designs garden spaces out of doors for LTC facilities. He stresses the importance of nature in everyone’s life, both young and old. Both the Eden Alternative and the Pioneer Network presented webinars this last spring for LTC staff to learn about the importance of gardens and plants to combat hopelessness, helplessness and boredom in facilities. We have all learned about the abundance of benefits and joy that horticulture brings to our lives, and how gratifying now that the Culture Change philosophy is including and recognizing it’s importance.

Dementia no longer can be viewed as a disability simply needing medical care, but instead, we need to provide assistance for our elders to remain engaged in a meaningful way in everyday life. Our sense of self-remains throughout our lives whether we suffer with dementia or any other disability. One intern, Jenny, said that doing the horticultural therapy with the elders provided the greatest reward for her internship, because “just seeing the joy on their faces, is enough.”

With the addition of Culture Change, the LTC environment provides a richer and more rewarding setting for horticultural therapy now, for the elders we serve and for the staff who provide it.

What’s New with HTI Faculty?

This summer is filled with opportunities to present about HT. During the first week of August, Pam Catlin, HTR will be in Indianapolis facilitating a roundtable discussion at the Pioneer Network’s Conference on incorporating HT activities as a part of culture change. In September, The
ATRA (American Therapeutic Recreation Association) conference takes place in Spokane, WA with a focus on incorporating nature for success. Pam will be there, presenting Sept. 13th, on the natural success of using horticultural based projects in a therapeutic setting.

Growing Through Grief

Karen Kennedy, HTR presented this topic recently at the Grieving Children’s Conference in Ohio. Children intuitively know that playing outside makes them feel better. And while simply being in a garden can reduce anxiety, stress and muscle tension, actively growing plants can also be used to improve mood and coping skills. Horticultural therapy activities provide opportunities for expressing feelings, dealing with loss and change as well as celebrating life and memories of loved ones. Her session included an overview of the discipline of horticultural therapy and how it is used to promote healing through the grief process in all ages.

Jay Rice, Ph.D, will present at the 2010 International People/Plant Symposium August 6-8, 2010. The
symposium is sponsored by the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association and the People Plant Council and will be held at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. The theme is “Digging Deeper: Approaches to Research in H.T. and Therapeutic Horticulture.”