Debbie Hommel's A.D. Tips
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by Debbie Hommel, BA, ACC, CTRS, Executive Director of DH Special Services
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Executive Director
DH Special Services
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, ACC,
CTRS, is the Executive
Director of DH Special
Services. She is a Certified
Activity Consultant on State
and National level, with over
twenty-seven years of
experience in providing direct
care and consultation to long
term care, medical day care,
assisted living, and ICF/MR
facilities throughout New
Jersey, New York, Maryland,
and Pennsylvania. She is an
experienced trainer and
workshop presenter,
conducting a variety of
seminars throughout the
Tri-State area for the Activity
Professional, Administrator,
and allied healthcare
professional. Debbie Hommel
is an active member of Activity
Professional Associations on
State and National levels. She
is ACC certified through the
NCCAP. She is a founding
member of the New Jersey
Activity Professionals'
Association, serving terms as
Vice President and President.
She received the Weidner
Lifetime Achievement Award
in 1994 and the Monmouth &
Ocean County Activity
Professionals Life
Achievement Award in 1999.
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for Activity Professionals
in Long Term Care Settings

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Springing Forward with Gardening Programs
By Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, CTRS

The warm weather, sunny skies and desire to be outdoors is a common inspiration to
introduce gardening programs within our communities.  Many activity professionals get
very excited and schedule some spring planting with seeds and small planting
containers.  Sadly, the plantings are sometimes forgotten and found a few weeks later
– dried up and dead on a sunny windowsill.   This article will explore the positive
aspects of a year round gardening program which can provide your residents with
countless benefits.

As defined by the American Horticulture Therapy Association, some of the benefits of
gardening programs include:
Physical -increased muscular strength; stretching muscles and increased range of
motion; improved fine motor skills; improved coordination and balance
Mental -increased autonomy and independence; outlet for stress, anger and emotional
expression; increased self esteem; increased attention span; intellectual stimulation
and opportunity to learn.

Social - opportunity to interact with others; cooperation and team working skills;
opportunity for reminiscing.
       Gardening programs can be conducted indoors and out; can involve planting from
seeds or working with houseplants; and can include a wide variety of nature crafts and
outdoor projects.  The community must first decide what kind of program they want and
who to involve.  One of the biggest contributors to a failed gardening program is not
having a plan.  A plan will guide the community in keeping the gardening program
viable throughout the year.  The following are some suggestions for an active gardening
   -Introduce a formal Garden Club into your monthly calendar.  Begin by discussing
gardening options with the residents.  If they are not interested to taking care of tomato
plants in the courtyard, then the project will fail.  The residents should be part of the
decision making process in developing the gardening program.  
     -Identify areas where outdoor planting can be introduced.  If waist high or wheelchair
high gardening beds are needed – they can be purchased through various catalogs
and web sites.  The local boy scouts, vocational schools and even prisons may also
build the beds at your request.  There are directions available on the internet.          
   -Explore the availability of the Master Gardener Program, local garden clubs or
botanical societies in your area as a resource.  Seek out available Green Thumbs
amongst facility staff.  They may assist in planning, developing and implementing your
  - Obtain adaptive tools for the residents to garden with.  Hand tools with built up grips
or retractable handles can be found in Home Depot or similar stores.  
  -Ensure there is a nearby water source for easy watering.  It sounds simple but many
gardens have been planted and it was discovered later that water had to be carted from
a distance.
  -Introduce Plant Education Programs through the formal Garden Club meetings.  
Focus discussions on types of houseplants, flowering plants, succulents, exotic
plants.  Having the actual plant and introducing a multi-sensory experience is effective.
 -Schedule a room to room program called “Plant Doctor Visits”.  A cart equipped with
water, soil, pots for re-potting, fertilizer and a good plant book can make the rounds to
those residents with plants in room.  
 -After holidays, schedule a “Plant or Flower Show” where residents can bring their
plant gifts to a central location and display them.  
-After holidays, schedule a bulb planting day where the residents can bring their dying
flowering gifts to a designated area and assist in planting them for future growth.
-If vegetable gardening has been successful, the produce should seqway into a
cooking program.  Tomato sauce, Eggplant Parmigianino, and zucchini salad taste
better when you grow the vegetables yourself.  
-Schedule seasonal crafts according to the blossoms or nature items available.  
Pressing pansies or other flat flowers turns into simple note paper projects; collecting
acorns, pinecones and other fall items turns into seasonal wreaths; drying flowers is
an easy project with long lasting results and the list goes on and on.
       These ideas are just a few to get your gardening program not only started but to
continue throughout the year.  There are numerous resources available, as listed

Horticulture Therapy Links
Gardening as a Therapeutic Approach Independent Study Program

I think Thomas Jefferson said it best -   "Though an old man, I am but a young