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Nature and Dementia

All of us have probably experienced the benefits of nature at one time in our lives or another.  The calming sound of waves on the beach, the gentle rain on a roof or the canopy of the forest, or even the calm breeze through the pines can knock our anxiety levels down a few notches.  What few people realize, however, is that there is genuine scientific evidence that reveals that which we’ve all experienced…nature is good for us!  It’s even better for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

It is so good for us, in fact, that in Finland regular doses of nature incorporated in their governmental health policy.  They may prescribe a walk in a natural area as treatment for anxiety, alcoholism, attention problems or depression.   But Finland is not alone as a country finding ways to combat the ailments of our century.  South Korea, Canada & the US are all studying nature’s effects on the human psyche.  Many questions are being answered as scientists delve into these areas of study, but it is mostly confirming what we all seem to know intuitively.  Nature is good for us.  It calms us down & helps us become more thoughtful.

Because Dementia & Alzheimer’s can be diseases that have some social stigmas attached to them, the diseases themselves are often accompanied with extreme depression or anxiety.  Regular outings into nature are incredibly helpful for those suffering from any of these diagnoses.  When you’re in nature, none of those things matter so much.  You can find a beautiful caterpillar, for instance, and be allowed time to pay attention to the exquisite detail of something that is currently in front of you without needing to remember its relationship to everything else in your world.  You can watch it for a long period of time without needing to rush.  You can remain calm & it will not judge your actions.  You are given time to think, to wonder & to be amazed.  You are given the freedom to be you. 

Of course, it is prudent to have someone along with you on your trips into nature.  We are not advocating that patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s wander in the woods alone as treatment.  But, as often as possible help those you care about to experience nature in meaningful ways.  Perhaps they’d like to bring along drawing supplies, or a camera for the outings.  Meaningful occupations that will bring attention & mindfulness are never amiss with patients & loved ones that struggle with these diseases.  It will likely improve their (and your) quality of life for years to come!



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