About the Serenity Garden
The effects of stroke and dementia are profound. The impact can be physical; psychological; financial and/or social. These effects often extend beyond the individual to include family, friends and the wider community. Due to these issues patients affected by stroke and dementia may require inpatient hospital care. This can be a frightening, disorientating and upsetting experience for all. To support individuals affected by stroke and dementia during their hospital stay, we created the Serenity Garden.
We have used feedback from staff, patient focus groups and service users with knowledge of strokes to identify the types of outdoor challenges that patients have struggled with after leaving the hospital. Patients reported that these challenges had an impact on their self-confidence and prevented them from going about their daily lives. The Serenity Garden aims to enable patients to experience real-world challenges in a safe and controlled environment under the supervision of trained therapists and nursing staff. This will ensure that when patients are discharged from hospital, they have improved mobility, self-confidence and are as independent as possible.
Patients and staff with knowledge of Dementia reported that they would like an area where they could undertake activities such as gardening, pet, music and art therapies, with areas for relaxation and socialising to help improve the general health and mental well-being of inpatients away from the clinical areas. This feedback has been integral in helping with the design of the garden.
The Serenity Garden has been designed in partnership with students from the Social & Horticulture Programme at Coventry University. The design was created by Susan Simpson (Ambassador), Susan Condor, Katy Doncaster and Christine Falconer.
The Stroke rehabilitation area offers patients the opportunity to navigate their way over steps (for mobile patients) or use a ramp (wheelchair users), traverse around navigation poles (which aim to mirror navigation around crowded areas), cross over a raised bridge, and walk through uneven gravel surfacing. Patients can then make their way down the new decking area which has a wonderful view of the newly planted sensory garden and wild flower meadow.
The Dementia therapy area incorporates new wheelchair accessible raised flower beds which are arranged with a variety of specially selected plants to stimulate the senses of sight, touch, sound, taste and smell. There is a dementia friendly pathway designed as an infinity loop to provide a sense of direction as patients wander through the area. A dining area and seating around the garden will enable patients to sit outdoors and relax with their friends and family. An all-weather lodge is expected to be in place by the end of the year. The lodge will enable patients to receive art, music, pet and one-to-one therapies away from the ward area throughout the year. The lodge will be able to accommodate hospital beds, wheelchairs and able-bodied patients making it a unique space for all to use. It will be equipped with a selection of specialist equipment to aid muscle building, concentration and fine motor skills.
The Lodge has been funded by The League of Friends at George Eliot Hospital.
The Lodge will enable patients to receive art, music, pet and one-to-one therapies away from the ward area throughout the year. The lodge will be able to accommodate hospital beds, wheelchairs and able-bodied patients making it a unique space for all to use. It will be equipped with a selection of specialist equipment to aid muscle building, concentration and fine motor skills.
Fairways Contracting Ltd successfully tendered to construct the garden and this took place between December 2020 and June 2021.
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The Serenity Garden has been funded entirely through charitable donations with our fundraising journey starting in June 2018. The Serenity Garden was chosen as the Mayor’s Appeal in April 2019. A special mention to the Hewitt Family who kick-started our fundraising campaign during our community engagement event in June 2019 with a very generous donation of £4,543 since then the family have undertaken numerous fundraising challenges to raise even more funds for the project. The George Eliot Hospital Charity provided a much-needed funding boost in August 2019. We were also chosen as Oakridge Golf Clubs charity appeal for 2020-2022.
We are very grateful to all our staff and community members who have supported the project through their own and collective fundraising efforts. A wide variety of fundraising events took place (pre-covid) from cake sales, yoga classes, 3 Peaks Challenge, numerous Marathons, fundraising stalls, Abba Tribute Night, 70’s Night, Bollywood Fusion Night, Christmas Choirs and Lights Switch On, Halloween Disco, Tombolas, Food Festivals, Quiz Nights and Fashion Shows.
“I am 46 and in August 2018 I suffered 2 strokes.
My wife and I have 5 children and had just got married in the May so to suddenly have 2 strokes was a huge shock.
After the first stroke I didn’t have any mobility issues and was able to walk around, the ward can be noisy and hard to collect your thoughts so I used to escape to a bench just outside the doors, which faced a car park and the busy hospital environment, but being outside gave me that little bit of breathing space.
After the second stroke I unfortunately did end up with reduced mobility and was confined to the ward for many weeks. Although the staff are amazing I started to feel like a prisoner not having anywhere to escape to other than the visits to physio.
The first time I was allowed to leave the ward in a chair I just wanted to sit outside and try to get my head around what was happening but again I was greeted with noisy cars and people coming and going.
It was hard to see my children and I would often go days without seeing them due to being on the ward. After hearing about the garden I wished this had been available when I was on the ward, this would have been a wonderful place to sit and gather my thoughts in peace and quiet and to be able to spend some private time with my family. I believe it would have been more of an incentive to work harder in physiotherapy with it being outdoors and facing real situations such as uneven ground.
The pet and gardening sensory areas sound incredible and I could imagine would be fantastic for rehabilitation. I know that had this all been available for me I would have used it all to its full potential instead of feeling like rehab was clinical. I think it will be fantastic and that stroke patients will find it helps them in their road to recovery."
Mrs V’s Story (Early onset Dementia)
“My husband loved the outdoors, his favourite hobbies were walking (covering distances of up to 7 miles in one day) and gardening (we spent a lot of quality time in the garden and took pride in keeping our garden looking pristine in all weathers). Even after he was diagnosed, his love for the garden did not diminish. However, his diagnosis had a negative effect on his confidence as he would worry that he would forget his address and end up getting lost.
My husband was admitted to George Eliot Hospital in July 2018 and remained in hospital for 6 weeks. During this time, his cognition deteriorated due to infections and this affected his mobility. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take him home as he needs ongoing care and he was placed in a nursing home.
I feel that if the garden had been available during my husband’s inpatient stay, his deterioration would have been delayed. I would have been happy to walk around the garden with him so that it was not time consuming for the nursing staff. Having access to soil and garden tools may have helped my husband to trigger memories.”