By Erin L. Carlucci, RN, CPT, CDP
Today I saw a smile. You may be thinking, “Smile? We all see smiles.” This smile was different. This smile was the smile of a wonderful memory. A memory that isn’t as attainable for her as it is for us. This smile shared a moment of who she is and not what she has, dementia. As she caressed the leaves ever so gently and felt the soft warm soil run through her fingers, she smiled. She smiled and began to talk about the farm. She was the best darn farmer you ever did know. She planted eggplants, zucchini, basil, and carrots. Oh but the eggplants… they were her pride and joy, award winning even. She spoke about the town fair and how her eggplants were the most vibrant in color and weighed the most. For a moment she was back. Her eyes sparkling with pride, and her smile as wide and beautiful as the Pacific Ocean on a hot summer day! Could it be that something as sim-ple as a plant and soil has the ability to bring so much joy? We know sensory touch can bring positive feelings if one of the five senses has been stimulated: Visual, verbal/hearing, touch, smell or taste. But how do plants and nature come into play?
With gardening you can plant a seed and watch the cycle of the plants growth, water an already bloomed flower, enjoy the colors and scents around you, hear the buzzing bee as it drinks the sap from a flower, touch the smooth skin of an eggplant, the rigged bumps on asparagus or the curved ridge of a carrot, eat what has already grown or talk to help it grow. Most importantly, gardening requires one’s nurturing thus feeding the spirit and removing the helplessness that a person living with dementia may feel. I’m not an expert in horticulture but I know a special smile when I see one. Today I saw a smile and this smile was different. This smile showed me who she is and not what she has!
Erin Carlucci is the Community Nurse Manager, Staff Education & Development for Parker at Monroe.
Photo Credit: Jim, The Photographer, Flickr.com