April is National Occupational Therapy Month: “Tips for Making Gardening Possible”

Occupational Therapy Month
April is Occupational Therapy Month. Occupational therapists work daily, developing strategies for their patients to ensure that no matter the physical limitations, disabilities, disease or injury that those people have, they can still participate in the activities that they love and enjoy. One of those activities is gardening. Pictured above is gardener Sheila Mooney (left) of rural New Albin with Tami Gebel (right), Occupational Therapist at Veterans Memorial Hospital. Submitted photo.

by Tami Gebel, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist at
Veterans Memorial Hospital

Springtime has finally arrived, and many people are anxious to be out in the yard planting their gardens.  Gardening can be a very rewarding hobby or past-time, even therapeutic to the mind and soul. However, when the physical tasks become too painful or difficult, many people find that having a garden is more of a chore.

Occupational therapists work daily with people to ensure that no matter the physical limitations, disabilities, disease or injury that those people have, they can still participate in the activities that they love and enjoy. One of the roles of an occupational therapist is to develop strategies, compensations or modifications so that people are not hindered by their aches, pains or physical limitations in order to participate in their favorite activities. Here are some tips to help make gardening less of a chore:

1) Plan for a garden the size you can manage. No one says that your garden has to be bigger than what your mother’s had been, or your neighbors. Only plant what you know you will eat or be able to process. Remember when August/September comes around, the produce will have to be harvested and the garden will have to be cleaned.
2) Make sure the garden is close to the house and to a water source. If you are having to travel or walk a distance, then completing gardening tasks will have to be completed in longer sessions. Completing gardening tasks for short periods of time will help keep your body energized and healthy.  Also, transporting water long distances can be painful to your joints.
3) Sit while gardening to reduce the strain and stress on your back, neck, knees, and hips. Use a padded kneeling pad, or a kneeler seat, which is a combination of a kneeling platform and seat that folds up. Take rest breaks to stretch your neck, back, and legs every 15 minutes, or at least change tasks or body positions.
4) Select tools that have padded handles in order to protect the small joints of your hands and arms. Use tools that have a spring-action self opening feature.  Avoid awkward body positions, twisting, and reaching too far away from the body.  Use self-coiling hoses that are light weight for watering plants in order to decrease risk of falls.
5) Plan out the types of plants used. Plant native plants or perennials in order to decrease the amount of weeding, pruning or planting required. Plant groundcover to decrease weeds.

If you have any questions, or feel an occupational therapy referral would benefit you, call the Occupational Therapy department at Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-5528.
 

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