Staff from the North East based charity, Mental Health Concern have come together to create a special sensory, dementia-friendly garden at one of their residential homes.

Staff, including senior directors, from Mental Health Concern gathered at their Pinetree Lodge residential care home in Gateshead to work on the garden, creating a multi-sensory environment that allows those living with dementia to enjoy nature with their loved ones.

Several studies have emphasised the positive impact that nature has on people with dementia, including increasing vitamin D levels to improve mood, allowing sensory stimulation, providing a powerful avenue for reminiscence, and reinforcing a sense of self. The garden at Pinetree Lodge – a home that specialises in personalised dementia care – has been designed with these benefits in mind, and includes plants of a variety of colours, textures, scents, and sizes – including plants that make a pleasant sound in the breeze or attract butterflies and bees.

The garden used to be maintained by the husband of one of Pinetree’s residents, as an activity they did together. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and restrictions to visiting care homes were put in place, the garden fell into disrepair. The charity hopes that both residents and their family carers can use the newly restored space to reconnect following a tough year.

To mark National Carer’s Week, Mental Health Concern hosted a special garden party, inviting family carers of residents who were treated to a first look at the new garden and afternoon tea. The newly elected Mayor of Gateshead, Councillor Dot Burnett, was also in attendance as a family carer as her sister is a resident at Pinetree Lodge, and following the announcement that Mental Health Concern would be one of her chosen charities.

After the renovation day, Scott Vigurs, Chief Operating Officer for Mental Health Concern,  commented: “The team worked tirelessly to make the space beautiful for the residents and their family members. Their efforts will make a huge difference to the residents’ lives and care. I am humbled to work alongside such dedicated people.”

Councillor Dot Burnett, Mayor of Gateshead said: “I am totally delighted to hear about the garden – it will give a much-needed valuable outdoor space for the residents to relax a little with both the staff and their families.

“The residents have had such amazing care provided by a very dedicated, highly trained staff throughout the unprecedented times experienced with the pandemic. I am so very grateful that my sister Sylvia and all the residents have benefitted from this care, and I want to express my heartfelt thanks – not just from my family’s point of view, for the way they have cared for Sylvia, but on behalf of Gateshead Council, which is extremely lucky to have such amazing facilities as Pinetree Lodge to serve the residents of Gateshead at a most sensitive and difficult time for families.

Families just want to feel that their loved ones are being treated with dignity and care at these difficult times in their lives, and it brings such comfort to know that is the case in Pinetree Lodge. I would like also to pay tribute to the hard work of the volunteers who have created this wonderful space. We owe you all a great debt of gratitude.”