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How our hospice uses outdoor sensory experiences to help terminally ill children

4/10/2018

How our hospice uses outdoor sensory experiences to help terminally ill children

4/10/2018

Helen & Douglas House charity is known for the care we provide to babies, children and teenagers inside the hospice, but our support does not stop there and we often take therapy out into the garden and surrounding areas. Whilst out-and-about, our environment offers a sensory experience where there are sights, sounds, textures, tastes and aromas that animate the senses.

Why do we do it?

Taking care outside is an enriching sensory experience that can be enjoyed by anyone who visits us, including the children and their families. Some of the children who visit Helen & Douglas House may have limited senses, such as visual impairments, this is where the sensory experiences can really enhance their stay and give them some simple pleasures that animate them magically, just when they need it most.

Individual carers

Family life can get hectic, especially when children have siblings, and this means that parents do not get to spend time as much time as they wish they could with their children. What is fantastic about a stay at Helen & Douglas House is that each child gets an individual carer which gives them the time and the chance to be able to go out into the garden and enjoy their environment. With the care team able offer one-to-one supervision, or sometimes even two-to-one, this means they can really focus on their sensory experience and care whilst staying with us.

During their stay, the children can go out into the garden where, aside from the play areas, they can be shown flowers, such as lavender, crushing them to feel the petals on their skin and releasing the relaxing aromas. Going out into the garden also gives them chance to feel grass beneath their feet or the opportunity to experience the soft touch of an apple picked from the tree, heightening touch and smell, all the while giving them opportunity to hear the sounds of the garden, such as birdsong.

‘You can always tell when a child likes a sensory experience. When they have limits on one of their senses, it often heightens the other senses.’ – Hannah Jones, Care team

A tranquil haven

As well as the children enjoying sensory experiences, the peaceful garden can also be a tranquil haven for parents to reflect. Whether it is sitting on one of the gardens various benches with family to calm themselves after a busy day or restless night, or discovering areas that have strategic planting in a secluded corner to enable them to sit by themselves, there is opportunity for all to enjoy this outside space.

Volunteers keep our garden looking healthy

Our peaceful gardens at Helen & Douglas House are tended by a team of fantastic volunteers who have worked hard to ensure the garden is well-stocked with perennials and different types of plants that flourish at changing times of the year. This means it can offer new sensory and play experiences throughout every season.

Maggie is one of the team of five volunteers who make up our gardening team. She is known in the team as the ‘compost queen’ and has been volunteering since 2010. She was always aware of the hospice as she lives locally, but was pleased to discover that it was such a happy place to both work in, and to be around.

‘The garden is not only important to the children and care team, but for the parents to sit and be quiet.’
– Maggie

Maggie works with four other volunteers and without their regular help and experience, the garden would not so suitable for those visiting Helen & Douglas House. It is such an important element of what makes up the care and support we are able to offer and it really does help to create such happy memories.

You can help provide hospice care to local terminally ill children

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