Dear Donna:

A few years ago, my mom was diagnosed with dementia. As a family, we’ve been managing the disease fairly well so far. But I do feel like we need to find more meaningful activities for her to engage in. I hope to give her more productive ways to pass time.

Mom was a lifelong gardener until the symptoms of her disease caused some mobility challenges. Gardening always gave her such a sense of contentment. This summer, I am thinking of trying to help her create and nurture container gardens. Does this seem like a hobby that would benefit a person with dementia? Do you have any tips?


JoAnna in Williamsburg, MI

Gardening Tips for Adults with Dementia

Dear JoAnna:

What a great idea! Window boxes, pots, hanging baskets, and raised flower/vegetable beds are good ways to allow older adults with mobility problems to enjoy this popular pastime. Engaging with nature has proven health benefits, including for people with dementia. It’s linked to lower stress, better sleep, and more positive self-esteem.

Here are a few tips that I hope will help you and your mom make the most of your gardening hobby this summer:

  • Look for pictures in magazines or on gardening websites.

One way to get started is by sitting down with your mom and flipping through old gardening magazines or visiting websites, such as Pinterest, to get some ideas. Save pictures of flowers and plants you and your mom like. It will help you better define your garden style. Some people find it helpful to come up with a color scheme for their flowers, like purple, pink, and yellow or red, purple, and white.

  • Identify locations for your containers or raised beds.

Your flower and vegetable choices will be directly impacted by the amount of sun or shade they receive each day. That’s why it’s important to identify where you will place your containers or raised beds. If space isn’t an issue for you and your yard has both sun and shade, you will likely be able to choose whatever plants you both like most. And don’t restrict yourself to just pots on the patio or porch if you have easy access to water. Hang pots from shepherd’s hooks near the shed or back door. Plant an herb garden in window boxes, or grow a cutting garden in a raised bed.

  • Invest in good potting soil.

One thing we’ve noticed in creating container gardens with our dementia care residents is how important good soil is to the plants’ health. Don’t just dig up dirt from your yard to fill the pots and raised beds. Instead, purchase one that is specifically designed for containers. Most of them have moisture container components that keep the pots from drying out too quickly. Your local independent garden center may sell a region-specific mix. If not, brands like Happy Frog, Miracle-Gro, or Espoma usually work well.

  • Take water into consideration.

Finally, as you are planning where to locate your containers, remember that they will need more frequent watering than in-ground flowers and vegetables. If you aren’t able to help your mom carry a watering can or drag a hose around the yard, be sure to keep your containers close to a water source or install drip irrigation. While tools like watering globes can help a little, they really aren’t a match for the hot, humid days of a Michigan or Indiana summer.

I hope these tips help you and your mom get your garden off to a great start!

Kind regards,


Visit a Heritage Dementia Care Program

Heritage is one of the leading providers of care for adults with dementia in the Great Lakes region. From our person-centered approach to care to our specialized training programs for caregivers, we help adults with a memory impairment enjoy their best quality of life. Call the Heritage community nearest you to talk with an experienced team member about specialty dementia care!