Belfast Telegraph

Sarah Travers' dad 'would have loved memory garden'

New facility set to help dementia sufferers

By Christine Carrigan

A "magical memory garden" to help people with dementia has opened in Northern Ireland.

The facility at Palmerston Care Home in east Belfast includes a caravan for recalling family holidays, a farmyard and a pets' corner.

It is thought to be the first of its kind here.

BBC television presenter Sarah Travers, who lost her father to Alzheimer's in 2013, cut the ribbon at yesterday's opening ceremony.

She said: "I lost my own father to dementia four years ago coming in October and he was diagnosed at 62.

"He was still working as a travelling salesman at that time.

"One of the hardest things he had to deal with was the taking away of his car keys.

"If you have been around the garden, there is a car and that car would have been fantastic for my dad. Even though he couldn't drive anymore, he absolutely loved cleaning his car."

The garden features areas that can be accessed in all weathers and is split into five sections. Each has a different theme that involves interaction with the five senses.

Residents and visitors can take a trip down memory lane at the caravan, which can be used to recall family "days out" or holidays.

Car enthusiasts can spend time in the car port, where they can tinker, polish or clean the vehicle.

There is also a large garden shed, which is home to the 'Men in Sheds' project, and a dedicated pets' corner with rabbits and chickens.

A section provides a serene, secluded space for reflection.

The garden is the brain child of Marsha Tuffin, head of dementia services at the care home.

She said: "The garden is suitable for different levels of cognitive skill and ability, where a finished outcome or product is not required.

"It avoids frustration or embarrassment if a task has not been completed.

"Within the garden, residents feel unrestrained, allowing them to really walk with purpose, which has psychological and physical benefits; being outdoors reduces stress levels."

Geraldine Gilpin, chief executive of Abbeyfield and Wesley Housing Association, which owns the care home, said the aim was to create a "magical space".

Figures show cases of dementia are on the rise here.

Over the past 10 years, the number of sufferers in Northern Ireland has increased from 9,550 to 13,617 - up by 43%.

Research conducted by The Alzheimer's Society in 2013 showed that only 35% of people living with dementia get outside every week.

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