After witnessing the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease on her husband, Eunice P. West founded the not-for-profit James L. West Alzheimer’s Center, in honor of the late Fort Worth business leader and philanthropist. Since 1993, the center has given highly skilled, compassionate care to more than 1,200 residents and day-program participants. However, due to its aging condition, the facility’s leadership decided to remodel the interior of the building and pursue a full renovation of the terrace garden on the second floor. Civil engineering and landscape architecture firm Pacheco Koch was hired to redesign the terrace into a cohesive and attractive outdoor environment for the residents.
Observations of the residents focused on physical behavior, such as exercise, gardening habits, and personal interactions within the garden. Through this analysis, exploratory concepts aimed at improving the character and intensity of the physical and sensory interaction with the garden environment were formed and created some fundamental design criteria.
Garden design for residents with Alzheimer’s disease in long-term care facilities should address challenges of safety and security, spatial orientation, sensory stimulation, and personal autonomy. The most desirable plant palettes emphasize stimulating species that are non-toxic and aromatic, and offer seasonal interest with sensory qualities such as bold color, fine texture, wind-sensitive movement, and sound, and which attract wildlife. Horticulture therapy as a practice is critical for meeting the physical, psychological, and social-interactive needs of resident patients. Selected both to suit the needs of resident patients and as an expression of regional landscape character, plant and materials palettes for this garden can serve as an exemplar for designing safe, healthy, and invigorating spaces to benefit the lives of Alzheimer’s patients.