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Incorporating Nature and Outdoor Spaces in Palliative Care

Palliative Care

Updated 06-01-2024

Incorporating Nature and Outdoor Spaces in Palliative Care

Palliative care encompasses a holistic approach to ease the suffering and improve the quality of life for people with serious illnesses. Among the myriad of strategies employed, incorporating nature and outdoor spaces has emerged as a significant aspect of therapeutic environments. The intertwining of natural elements in palliative care settings provides physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits that are profoundly influential for patients, their families, and caregivers.

The Role of Nature in Enhancing Patient Wellbeing

Creating a Healing Environment

Nature and green spaces foster a restorative environment that has a calming effect on patients. Flowers, trees, water features, and wildlife can help reduce stress and anxiety, leading to improved mental wellbeing. Being surrounded by nature not only provides a soothing backdrop but also offers patients a sense of normalcy amidst treatment.

Physical Benefits of Nature Contact

Exposure to sunlight in outdoor spaces increases Vitamin D levels, which is crucial for maintaining bone health and boosting immune function. Additionally, natural light helps regulate sleep patterns, improving the overall rest and recuperation of patients.

Spiritual and Emotional Connect with the Outdoors

Outdoor spaces can serve as places for reflection, offering solace and a quiet respite from clinical settings. This connection with nature can have deeply spiritual connotations for some, making it an integral part of their palliative care experience.

Strategies for Incorporating Natural Elements

Designing with Purpose

In creating palliative care spaces, thoughtful design integrating gardens, courtyards, or balconies becomes essential. These areas should be easily accessible and provide comfortable seating, shaded areas, and pathways that are navigable for those with mobility issues.

Therapeutic Landscaping

Therapeutic gardens are designed specifically to meet the needs of palliative care residents. Fragrant plants, sensory gardens with tactile experiences, and the inclusion of sound through rustling leaves or water features enhance the multisensory appeal of these spaces.

Facilitating Interaction with Nature

Palliative care facilities should encourage interaction with nature. This can be achieved through gardening programs or simply by encouraging patients to spend time outdoors when possible. Caregivers can also bring nature indoors with the use of potted plants, natural materials, and maximising natural light.

The Impact on Relatives and Caregivers

A Space for Families

Natural spaces within palliative care settings support family members and loved ones as well. They offer a place to gather, share, and even find moments of joy amidst challenging times, reinforcing the support system for the patient.

The Role of Natural Spaces in Caregiving

For caregivers, these outdoor areas provide much-needed breaks from the physical and emotional demands of palliative care. Nature has been shown to alleviate symptoms of burnout and compassion fatigue among healthcare professionals, thereby enhancing the care provided.

Implementing Programmes and Activities

Nature-based Interventions

Programs that involve nature, such as horticultural therapy, bird watching, or simply walks in the garden, can be integral to the care plan. These activities engage patients and provide a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Accessibility and Safety

While implementing such programmes, care must be taken to ensure accessibility for all patients, including those with restricted mobility. Safe, flat pathways, and raised garden beds can help overcome some of these barriers.

Conclusion

The infusion of nature into palliative care settings represents a powerful tool in enhancing the wellbeing of terminally ill patients and their support networks. As research continues to underscore the benefits of natural environments on human health, the design and integration of outdoor spaces in palliative care must be approached with sensitivity and creativity. By providing patients with the opportunity to connect with the outdoors, we honour the intrinsic human need for nature and its healing touch during the most vulnerable times of life.

About the Author

Olivia is a seasoned professional with an extensive career spanning the Aged Care sector, bringing decades of experience to her role. Her comprehensive understanding of Aged Care services and practices is a testament to her dedication. Olivia’s gratitude extends to those who have generously shared their knowledge and insights with her over the years, contributing to her wealth of expertise.
Olivia’s articles reflect her commitment to practical and informative content. They skillfully combine her industry know-how with real-world insights, providing valuable resources for navigating the complexities of the Aged Care sector. Olivia stands as a reliable advocate for delivering compassionate and effective care to elderly individuals, offering her support not only to fellow caregivers and professionals but also to those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the sector.

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