Ecotherapy for People with Dementia and Their Carers

Organisation : NHS Lothian - Mental Health Occupational Therapy Department, St Johns Hospital
Grant Amount : £ 5,000

This is a pilot study of the value of ecotherapy for people with dementia and their carers. Ecotherapy is a term used to describe the health and wellbeing benefits that people can gain from contact with nature. There is evidence that people can gain some limited cognitive benefits from walking in natural settings, or even from spending time studying photographs of natural scenes. The ecotherapy literature however often concentrates upon the spiritual and ‘personal development’ benefits of immersion in natural settings – often provided by going on a nature retreat. People intuitively know that they feel better when they go on a nature trip, and anecdotal evidence suggests that people will often choose to take themselves into nature at times of loss, transition or personal crisis, knowing that this will facilitate self-exploration and perhaps psychological and spiritual healing or recovery. People with dementia and their carers, who have recently been given a diagnosis, will find themselves at the beginning of a personal journey. Few people get the chance to deeply reflect on the impact of the diagnosis and the transitions in their lives, for example by experiencing a nature retreat.  Ecotherapy retreats are becoming more popular however though not yet evaluated in health settings or with people who have dementia.