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Time in nature

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I often reflect on the positive impact of being outdoors and connecting with nature has on me, particularly as this year I have moved home to live in a rural community with many opportunities to experience a range of outdoor activities. During walk with my dog last winter, after a very busy day, I stopped for a while to feel the late winter sun on my face and delighted in the accompanying gentle breeze. This moment wasn’t about the activity of dog walking but more about how the whole experience made me feel. I reflected on how incomplete my life would be if I was unable to have the freedom or ability to experience being outdoors. These thoughts moved me so over the past few months of this year I have been working with Dementia Adventure, Rutland County Council and Rutland Wildlife Trust Centre to develop a project that aim to enable people living with dementia and their family carers to share time in nature.

We have been committed to ensuring that this project takes the time to ensure that carers and the person living with dementia are involved in its development. The name of the project - Time in Nature - was the title chosen by the group. Whilst we had an idea of what might or might not work during the session, we didn’t want to assume that it is what group participants would want. So to prepare we spent a morning sharing and discussing ideas, some of which we managed to build into the session itinerary. Interests expressed were many and varied; including dry stone walling, building badger boxes and bird nests and generally helping to maintain the woodland. I felt personally enthused at some of their ideas and that I may learn some new skills myself.

After this productive co-production planning day we launched the first Time in Nature activity group on the 9th of October at Rutland Wildlife Trust Volunteer Centre. We anticipated a slow uptake and low numbers initially, perhaps four or five couples?  To our great pleasure and surprise we welcomed 17 participants each dressed to experience the great outdoors. My colleague Kath Pyke of Dementia Adventure and myself introduced ourselves and the purpose of the group.  Following a welcome of coffee and biscuits we presented a table displaying a variety of interesting objects, such as, an owls skull, conkers, leaves and a variety of foliage, all with different textures and smells.   Participants were encouraged to handle the objects and conversation was facilitated.  Even those who had difficulty communicating verbally visibly enjoyed the experience.

Part of my role as an Admiral Nurse is supporting and maintaining relationships.  Spousal couples often experience difficulty communicating with each other when words are lost.  As the relationship changes and care needs emerge for one of the couple so there are changes where one role develops into that of care giver. The risk is that the interaction then changes into one which is merely task driven. One couple I was supporting attended the group; they were experiencing difficulties in communicating with each other which left the spouse of the person with dementia feeling isolated and lonely. During the Time in Nature session I worked with this couple and supported them to share the experience of feeling and smelling the items on the table. The person with dementia started to use words her spouse had not heard for a long time; “beautiful” “lovely” “look at that“ - the words weren’t lost she just needed a little help to find them.

After the table top session we split into smaller groups and, supported by a crew of enthusiastic volunteers from the Wildlife Trust, donned binoculars in the observatory to look over Rutland waters wildlife.  Some headed out to ramble along the hedgerows with lots of chatter, laughter and knowledge shared. Before we broke for lunch participants had the opportunity to make a posy from the items on the table to take home with them as a reminder of the day and continue conversations.

Here are a few quotes from the day:

“I don’t usually get chance to walk in fields anymore only trips to town; reminds me of when I was young walking on the Yorkshire Moors “

“I’ve really enjoyed the comradery”

“Really enjoyed using the telescope “

“Nice to be outside”

The Group runs fortnightly from the 9th of October from 10.30 to 13:30 at Rutland Wildlife Trust Volunteer Centre. For further information please contact Angela Moore contact details below. To see a little of what the day involves please follow this link or click on the video at the top of the page: https://youtu.be/1y5rPuhnc8w


Angela Moore, Admiral Nurse Clinical Lead, Rutland County Council

Address: Catmose House, Catmose street, Oakham LE15 6HP

Contact email: amoore@rutland.gov.uk

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This is a really important topic. People living with dementia often find themselves confined inside, whether that's in their own home or in a care home. This may be out of a well-intentioned concern about safety, but I think we need to be looking at it differently - at the positive value of connection with nature and the benefits of fresh air and exercise for both physical and mental health.

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