Garden therapy helping stroke patients

03/Sep/2020     HealthMater Group

National Stroke Week runs 31 August till 6 September aimed at raising awareness of stroke and the warning signs associated with it while promoting the important work being done by clinicians to help people with their recovery. 

This week we meet up with Mater Centre for Neurosciences Occupational Therapist Aleysha Martin and Clinical Nurse Ashley McGuire who discussed how they help patients in the Stroke Unit rehabilitate post-stroke and the evidence-based therapies they have introduced into this space.

A stroke is when blood cannot reach the brain due to a blocked or burst artery, and as a result, brain cells begin to die due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients, therefore understanding the warning signs is so important as people having a stroke need medical care quickly.

Aleysha explains for people who have experienced a stroke they will need to undergo extensive rehabilitation therapy as parts of their brain which controlled function have been damaged. 

“The damage caused to the brain through a stroke is varied from patient to patient. There are some people who may need to learn how to walk again, speak, write or perform basic tasks, and as an Occupational Therapist I use different therapies to help each patient reach their individual goals," Aleysha said.

"One new initiative that we have recently introduced into the Stroke Unit is the raised garden beds which are helping patients not only with their recovery but also their mental health. Patients can spend time in the gardens while practicing balance, standing, speaking and using tools in a pleasant and calm environment.

“Also known as Horticultural Therapy, gardening has been proven to help with memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialisation. In physical rehabilitation, it can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance, and endurance.”

Ashley says in the short time the garden has been installed they have seen benefits with their stroke patients, and there are many others who can use the space to achieve therapy goals for their patients as well.  

"It really can be used by any of our clinicians to help their patients reach therapy goals, we have been able to help patients with a range of different cognitive and neurological conditions and have found it very beneficial for patients post operatively," Ashley said.

"The patient feedback we have received about the garden has been fantastic, they really loved using the space and sometimes it can be quite difficult to get them to come back inside.

“Their whole mood brightens, you can see them smiling and they are excited about going out there. We have had patients who had difficulty speaking strike up conversations about the flowers, how much water they are getting and what’s growing, it has been excellent to see.”   

The team in the Stoke Therapy Unit have been so pleased with the results they are hoping to continue the garden and acquire more plants for patients.

For National Stroke Week the team also stressed the importance of understanding the warning signs of stroke and act F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) and calling an ambulance immediately. A stroke is always a medical emergency and time is critical.

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