Day therapy patients got back to nature at therapeutic horticulture session
Day therapy patients at St Catherine’s Hospice enjoyed the sights, smells and touch of plants, flowers and herbs in an activity session designed to share the therapeutic effects of nature.
Hospice occupational therapist Karen Leckie and Lisi Pilgrem, an OT from Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice in Surrey who has studied social and therapeutic horticulture, led the session with a group of patients who visit the hospice each week.
It offered them the chance to pot their own herbs, while learning about the healing properties of other flowers and plants. It was organised in response to research which has found the positive effect that being close to nature can have on a person’s well-being.
Lisi explained: “The session gave people the chance to touch down with nature. Some people may have been keen gardeners in the past, but their illness now prevents them doing what they used to be able to – this is a way for them to feel the soil on their hands again and to experience the sights and smells of different plants and flowers.
“It works in many different ways – research into the presence of flowers has found that they can help lift mood, while many people talk about the feelings of peace and tranquillity they experience when they can feel their hands in the earth. Studies have also shown activities like this can re-energise and reduce stress levels, while patients enjoy the social side of doing an activity together and re-connecting with others. Importantly, it is also something ‘normal’ that people can do again, which can be so important when it feels like an illness is taking things away from you.”
Winnie Slater, from Lostock Hall, potted a lemon balm plant during the session and said she had really enjoyed herself.
Winnie, aged 85, said: “It’s been very interesting finding out about the history of different plants and what they can be used for.
“It was nice to get stuck in and get my hands dirty! It took my mind off other things because I was concentrating on that, and I found it nice and relaxing.”
Margaret Holden from Fulwood said it had been interesting learning more about the different herbs and their properties.
She said: “I used to grow herbs in my garden so it has been good to find out more about them and learn new things – I didn’t realise that thyme was good for keeping cats away!
“I’ve got a lovely sage bush to take home now which I shall put in my garden. It’s been nice to do something again that I used to enjoy doing.”
Constance Bordell from Ingol said the session had introduced her to lemon balm, a herb she had not heard of before.
“The session was good fun,” she said. “I’ve been told it is a nice summer herb which goes well in salads and drinks – I look forward to testing it out!”
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