One of Thrive’s regular client gardeners, Phil Banbury, is a
shining example of how, with the charity’s help and the love of family and
friends, there is still much happiness to be had whilst living with a
A former physicist and university lecturer, when Phil was
told he had Alzheimer’s, the diagnosis came as no surprise.
At first, several symptoms were put down to ageing as it’s a
disease that often develops slowly over many years and is not always obvious at
the start. However, being an intelligent and scientific man Phil had already
suspected that all was not right, so when the diagnosis was made after seven
years of experiencing difficulties, he took the news quite well.
Being physically active has always been important to Phil
and his wife Jean who were already keen gardeners, growing their own vegetables
and looking after two raised beds at home. Up until a few years ago they also had
an allotment which they had lovingly tended for 18 years.
When their local Memory Clinic run by the NHS told them
about Thrive, the idea appealed to both of them. Now Phil attends weekly and Jean says the
impact has been noticeable.
"There are the
inevitable changes with Phil because of his Alzheimer’s - even making a cup of
tea is becoming a chore. Sometimes I say
to Phil 'I miss the old you’ and he replies 'so do I’. But knowing Phil loves coming here, is
enjoying himself and is so well looked after makes me very happy and also means
I can have a few precious hours to myself," wife Jean.
For Phil, his visits to the Thrive gardens in Beech Hill,
near Reading, provide a sense of adventure within a safe and supportive
environment. The exercise helps him sleep at night and his circulation has
improved. Thrive focuses on personal
achievement and with the support of horticultural therapist Vicki, Phil has
become highly proficient at potting on!
Vicki, said: "I first met Phil last year
when he joined our weekly Dementia Group for the summer here at our Trunkwell
Centre in Beech Hill. Phil enjoyed it so
much, his wife Jean felt he would miss it if he stopped, so he has carried on
throughout most of the winter.
As long as he doesn’t need to tackle tasks involving
bending, Phil is very capable, so we use raised beds and potting benches to
make everything accessible. The weather can be a challenge at times so we
create enjoyable indoor craft projects such as making lavender bags from the
flowers we grew in the summer.
Phil’s so helpful and it’s a joy to see his confidence build
as he tackles new tasks. Recently he
chose flowers from the Thrive garden and made a posy for his wife. He can’t manage to order flowers for her
anymore so it was touching to see the care he put into this. It certainly
brightened Jean’s day when he got home!
If you’ve been moved by Phil’s story and would like to
help, please make a donation to Thrive here.
Gardening with Alzheimer's or Dementia
careful planning, people with Alzheimer's and Dementia can undertake a wide
range of activities. As the illness begins to show signs of deterioration
people can continue to garden at home, however, it is best to have a structure
in place so stimulation can still be gained in a safe way, although this maybe
in a different way.
you start the following points need to be considered. Activities need to be
planned for short sessions, e.g. 1hour or less and have an element of fun to
them. This can support the individual to remain focused and engaged. Sometimes
things may not work, but you must not give up hope.
- Planting a large pot with a
choice of plants chosen by the individual, this can encourage an
individual to take ownership of their pot
- The choice of plants can
provide opportunities for the individual to reminisce. Especially, by
choosing old varieties, or heritage seeds. A wider variety of plants can
also trigger people’s memory
- Growing vegetables to
prepare and eat the produce
- Care of plants can provide
the individual with a valuable role, such as weeding or watering
- Seed sowing is a focused
job, and can allow people to learn new skills, especially if they are
passionate and motivated about the subject
- Indoor gardening, for
people who may be in the more advance stages, such as table top
gardening which could be
propagation or harvesting vegetables in pots
- Caring for indoor house
plants can be an easy introduction to gardening, eg propagation of Spider
plants (Chlorophytum comosum)
activities can be chosen to increase mental awareness and stimulation, but
essentially they must all bring a sense of fun into the activity. Bringing the
family together can also contribute to the learning experience
For hints and tips on how gardening could help you or
somebody you know visit www.carryongardening.org.uk
or the main website www.thrive.org.uk