DEMENTIA SERVICES FOR INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANISATIONS JULIE COLE OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST

Activity and Dementia: Flower Crafts

The inspiration for today’s picture and this post comes from an old memory.  Twenty years ago I was an occupational therapy student  on placement in an older adult mental health service.  In those days  provision for dementia patients within the NHS was far more extensive than now and the trust where I was working not only had in-patient units but also long stay and respite wards.  There was a woman with advanced dementia on a day care unit. She was extremely  troubled and in all honesty I was quite scared of her.  How I’d love to be a time traveller so that I could go back and see what I could do now from my much more experienced standpoint .   She lashed out and shouted frequently and at one stage was playing with her own faeces on the table in front of her.  However her demeanour changed one day when a relative brought her half a dozen tulips.  I recall her slowly but very tenderly putting them in a vase of water.  Maybe more activity to alleviate boredom would be part of my plan.
So I am reminded that flowers can be the basic materials for an activity that might be enjoyed by people with dementia even at an advanced stage.   They are wonderfully versatile.  The process can be as simple as putting flowers in a vase of water to provide a pleasing result without any need for planning.  Yet,  it’s an activity that can be graded to satisfy more advanced levels of skill.  With some basic equipment and foliage a person with mild dementia and some pre-existing skills might be able to create pleasing arrangements independently.   For others flower arranging lends itself to being an activity that can be demonstrated and followed in a step by step fashion.      It can accommodate people with different physical limitations and  be carried out in a small space with simple tools and equipment.
Things to Consider When Using Flowers in Activities for People with Dementia
  • Think about whether the flowers or foliage being used present a risk to the person.  Are they poisonous or spiky?  Does the person have any allergies to plants?    Silk  or other kinds of artificial flowers may be a good alternative in some instances.
  • Be mindful of the fact that a person might find the smell of flowers overpowering or unpleasant.
  • This can be an excellent way encouraging participation in the wider environment.  People can  choose flowers in a market stall or shop or they might pick them from a garden or other natural space.  Other found objects from nature can be incorporated into designs too.
  • Sourcing and decorating suitable containers may be another activity in its own right.  Think about the risks around these for example, weight, sharp edges, breakages.
  • Using oasis foam or glass beads may help people produce a more satisfying result but  again think of safety implications if, for example,  the person is prone to putting things in their mouths that are toxic or represent a choking hazard.
  • Plant materials lend themselves to being used in other crafting projects for example  flower pressing, wreath making , daisy chains, drying flowers, making pot pourri and even baking.  There are lots of ideas on the internet.    My favourite example is the  flower petal stained glass which can be seen by following the link here.
  • These can be activities that connect a person with the seasons or provide a source for reminiscence.  What flowers did a person used to grow?  What are their favourites?  What were the ones in their wedding bouquet or given on Valentine’s day?

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