EDUCATING ~ CONNECTING ~ ENGAGING ~ NURTURING ~ REVITALIZING ~ COLLABORATING ~ INSPIRING
By Lesley Fleming, HTR
It is inevitable that issues arise when horticultural therapy programs are being delivered. Maintaining the interest and support for therapeutic horticulture from facility staff requires time and effort. Keeping staff happy and engaged is important for a well- run program. But challenges arise. Attendance declines, program frequency drops, getting participants to TH sessions is one more task on their chore list, and staff turnover means on-going review of programming parameters.
Q: The attendance at my therapeutic horticulture program is dwindling. How can I improve this, knowing that I am reliant on facility staff to get the participants to my program?
A: Practice self-evaluation:
Q: The facility has a lovely garden but staff discourage its use for therapeutic horticulture programming and general use by residents and visitors. How can this garden be used more, by HT practitioner and residents?
A: Determining why staff are discouraging the use of the garden is the obvious starting point. Is it inconvenient to use, too far to get participants to, does it require an extra degree of safety and vigilance from staff, and is the senior staff person aware of the limited garden usage? Making the garden a place staff want to spend time can be increased by: colorful plants, promoting fresh air and sunshine, providing seasonal interest and changes to the landscape, and support by senior administration is always helpful. Some of these are beyond the therapist’s control, and depending on how frequently the TH programming occurs, may not provide sufficient influence. Offer to do some extra time in the garden to spruce things up.
Share articles on why connecting with nature is healthy: Chalfont, G. & Walker, A. (2013). Handbook of Therapeutic Design and Practice; Pollock & Marshall (ed.) (2012). Designing Outdoor Spaces for People with Dementia; Morgan, S. (Oct. 2015). A Dose of Vitamin “D” retrieved from www.Eatbreathegarden.com
A few more ideas—begin or end TH sessions with participants walking through the garden, utilizing the therapist’s help and supervision. Then try to extend this time in the outdoors. For challenges related to weather, suggest sweaters or jackets for use by any garden visitor, available at the door (when the HT practitioner is there or not). In situations where the garden is locked, encourage longer times when it is available, possibly having a volunteer be in the garden to ensure appropriate safety, communication and oversight.
About the author:
Lesley Fleming is a registered horticultural therapist living in Florida. She delivers therapeutic horticulture programs to multiple populations, conducts HT workshops in both Canada and the U.S., and her articles are featured regularly in HT trade publications including eatbreathegarden.com. Her latest publication is a Smashwords e-book titled Therapeutic Horticulture A Practitioner’s Perspective.