Dementia residents at a Mid Glamorgan care home are making the best of the outdoors thanks to a new £8,000 sensory garden in memory of a former resident.
Elderly people living at Ysguborwen Care Home in Aberdare, a member of Care Forum Wales, can now listen to the calming sounds of the birds, potter around their own herb garden and enjoy an ice-cream from the new outdoor parlour whenever they fancy following the completion of a six-month design project.
Carers were keen to creatively conceal a new biomass plant that had been installed in the grounds of the home late last year to make the view from its lounge more appealing.
When long-term resident Violet Vaughan sadly passed away in March this year, the home took the opportunity to create a new sensory garden in her memory with the £1,000 donation she had made to Ysguborwen in her will.
The 95-year-old loved to spend her days in the care home’s indoor sensory room which looks out onto the unused ground and staff felt an interactive garden would be a perfect tribute to their former resident.
“It was just a spare piece of land before and one thing led to another and the idea just snowballed,” said activities manager and mum-of-one Wendy Parker, who has worked at the home for 25 years.
“The residents absolutely love it. As soon as the sun is out they all go out. It has a very therapeutic effect. They’re happier and calmer, and chattier. It has definitely enhanced the home.
“Violet’s very kind donation has enabled us to buy lots of outdoor sensory items for the benefit of all the residents. Violet herself loved the sensory room so we wanted to name it after her.”
Violet’s Garden features a cascading waterfall, a large solar willow tree which lights up, artificial grass, a herb garden where the residents can grow mint, thyme, sage and rosemary which they pick when it’s a roast lamb lunch and a wheelchair accessible polytunnel where they can grow runner beans and beetroot at waist height.
A colourful park scene depicting families and their children enjoying picnics has been painted on the wall of the new biomass plant by carer Paula Thomas who runs the home’s art classes while the home has invested in a number of ceramic, interactive ornaments that have been dotted across the grass including mushrooms, rabbits and squirrels in addition to its real chicken pen.
There are also woodland chimes, a furry cat that purrs and rolls over which has been a hit with the residents and a summer ice-cream parlour following the renovation of an older boiler house, within a wisteria and honeysuckle planted border.
The colourful details have impressed the residents who are enjoying the last of the summer in their new garden.
Retired nurse Margaret Jones, 82, from Aberdare, said: “It’s very attractive and colourful. It was my first time out this week but I would like to go out again. It’s quite something isn’t it – the painting is very relaxing.”
Retired housewife Violet Morgan, 101, from Aberdare, added: “It’s just the right size to look after. I love the willow tree and the waterfall.”
Marion Williams, 89, who worked as a nurse in the area before retiring, is a fan of the new footpath which is smoother than previously.
“I like all of it. I can hear the birds singing, and see the trees and flowers. It relaxes me,” she said.
The home has installed a triangular sail above the garden to create shade which blows in the wind and is another visual detail. It has also installed a new resin flooring with pebbled effect to aid walking.
“As a home we provide lots of games and activities and sometimes residents don’t always want to join in because they’re quieter,” said Wendy, 52, who lives in Hirwaun.
“When they go out into the garden, they look around and it’s peaceful. Even on a dull day the willow tree lights up.
“Some of our residents were formally gardeners and it’s about getting them back to their roots and what they know.
“We have a bird which tweets. We have a gentleman with us who is blind and sits by the water. When we put the bird there he says ‘I can hear my robin again’.”
In winter, the carers plan to change the scene by painting a wintery picture on the wall and bringing in a frosty element with a snowman and wintery fairy lights.
“Again it will help the residents differentiate between the seasons and where we are in the calendar,” said Wendy, who grew up around care as her mother managed a care home in Kent.
“We’re very keen to promote person-centred care and the garden really is enhancing the home.”
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said Ysguborwen’s new sensory garden promoted freedom and independence while also allowing the residents to enjoy truly person-centred care.
“Violet’s Garden is already having a hugely therapeutic effect on the residents and enhancing their wellbeing,” he said.
“Every detail of the design stage has been carefully thought out to offer residents maximum benefits and I am full of admiration for the home’s continued commitment to delivering care focused on the needs of their residents.
“The power of nature to rehabilitate and restore is well-documented. I’m delighted those living at Ysguborwen can now enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather.”