Healing gardens and cognitive behavioral units in the management of Alzheimer’s disease patients: the Nancy experience
Year of Publication 2013
The French Alzheimer Plan 2008-2012 anticipates the implementation of new Units specialized in cognitive rehabilitation and psycho-behavioral therapy of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. Conceived for AD and other dementia patients of all ages, their objectives are to propose a cognitive rehabilitation program, to prevent or treat psycho-behavioral crises, and to provide support and educational therapy to the family and professional caregivers, in order to ease the patient’s return to his or her previous way of life. Studies on green spaces and healing gardens in health-care settings have revealed objective and measurable improvements in the patient’s well-being. The Plan officially stipulates for the first time the need to make healing gardens an integral part of these Units, but it does not provide specific recommendations or criteria for implementing such gardens. Although green spaces and gardens are available in many French Care Units, they are rarely specifically adapted to the needs of AD patients. In Nancy, the Art, Memory and Life garden, a specific concept guided by a neuropsychological approach, was developed and complemented by an artistic vision based on cultural invariants. The main objective of this article is to describe the various steps of the process that led to the creation of this garden: the collection of experiences and information by a pilot group, surveys of patients, visitors, and caregivers before and after establishment of the garden, and implementation of a multi-professional group project. The specifications, the organizational criteria, the therapeutic project, and the criteria for the conception of such a garden stemming from our clinical experience with the Art, Memory and Life garden in Nancy, are described herein. We also present the first assessment following the implementation of the project.