Hello Guest, Login
View Cart (0)

Helping Alzheimer's Through Horticulture Therapy

Posted by on 9/2/2014

Yesterday closed out a record setting year for an event that is near and dear to the heart for many of my fellow state citizens - the Minnesota State Fair! One popular attraction to visit is the Horticulture building where you can see giant pumpkins, amazing bonsai tree sculptures, and 'Crop' or 'Seed Art'.

horticulture therapy art activity for dementia


What is 'Seed Art'?! It is just what you imagine - pieces of intricate artwork designed out of many types of seeds. One might often see the likeness of a famous actors made out of seed or a scenic landscape.

Horticulture Therapy for Patients with Alzheimer's

I recently led a group of clients with dementia at an adult day program in a 'Seed Art' project that was taken from the book, A Calendar Year of Horticulture Therapy, written by master gardener and therapist, Jan Hoetker Doherty. Horticulture, or plant, therapy offers people cognitive and spiritual stimulation through the senses: for example, feeling the soft leaves, smelling the fragrant blossoms, and seeing the vivid colors of nature. It also offers opportunity for creativity and conversation. The event was made more exciting, as my three girls joined us to be helpers for the participants.

Adapting the Steps of Activities for Alzheimer's

Since I knew in advance that the group we going to work with had a mild to moderate level of dementia, I knew it would be best to do some set-up work, or Prep Steps, in advance (See our guide to Simplifying Tasks for Alzheimer's patients).  The person with dementia would likely have difficulty and frustration if you told them to do complex steps, such as measuring.  By doing some of the steps for the person prior, the caregiver is helping the person, in a discreet way,  to avoid increased confusion.  Here are the Prep Steps to the 'Seed Art' project that we completed, including how we adapted our directions to make it successful.

Helping People with Dementia through Prep Steps and Adapted Directions

  • Find old seed packets, purchase ones, or copy pictures of seed packets from the internet.  If real seed packets are used, empty them out.  Save the seeds to show and/or to use in the project. 
  • Large seeds will be easier to handle when gluing them on. Sunflower seeds work well.
  • Lay the seed packet or picture of the packet onto a piece of colored construction paper.  Trace around the packet with a black marker.  This will serve as a guide to where the patient will later glue on the seed packet (see below for photo examples).
  • Around the rectangle that you just drew, draw another rectangle, 1 inch away from the first one.  This will be the 1 inch border where the seeds will be glued in, around the seed packet.
  • Prepare user friendly ways to apply the glue.  School glue worked well for the seeds, but you need to have enough. We used foam brushes to spread around glue that had been poured into small bowls.
  • Now the participant is ready to do the project.  Provide verbal cues and a demonstration, one step at a time, first gluing on the seed packet into the inner rectangle.
  • Next, have the person 'paint' on glue in a small area in the outer rectangle, then place seeds into the glue.  Give verbal cues and point, as needed, again following the guide for simplifying tasks mentioned above.
  • Also include time for reminiscence and conversation about gardens and how seeds grow.  The Calendar Year of Horticulture Therapy book has pages of interesting information about different seed types and properties that can be shared.
dementia horticulture art therapy

Try your own 'Seed Art' project with the person with dementia and let us know how it goes. Pumpkin seeds could be a good choice as the seasons change to fall!

Monica, Dementia Care Occupational Therapist

Learn About Activity Therapy for Dementia and How to Start Your Own Home Program




Add Comment

What's This?
Type the code shown