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Ecotherapy: An Alternative Home Care Treatment for Mental and Physical Health

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic affected millions of people worldwide.

Disruption in healthcare services not only impacted physical ailments, but also mental and psychosocial wellbeing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a recent scientific study revealed a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression. Many factors contribute to this, from social isolation to fear of infection, death, bereavement, financial worries and so on.

As of this time, COVID restrictions are easing, however, it is still necessary to help your home care clients find other coping mechanisms to prevent recurrence of these conditions. One of the therapies that has been integrated into the public consciousness during the pandemic, and is ideal for most home care clients, is ecotherapy.

Integrating Ecotherapy in Home Care Services

Ecotherapy is based on the philosophy of nature’s importance to humans’ wellbeing. It helps people reconnect to nature, operating on the idea that we are part of ecosystems and not separate from them. Studies have shown that exposure to nature promotes positive feelings, improves mood and memory, increases cognitive functioning and reduces stress and pain.

Ecotherapy in Home Care

In clinical settings, ecotherapy is typically practiced by a group in a natural environment focusing on an activity, which can include walking groups, bushcraft skills or creative writing. However, with group participation constraints due to the pandemic, ecotherapy can be enacted through other methods.

Here are a few principles to use with your clients in performing ecotherapy:

  • Horticulture: This has significantly exploded in today’s hobby scene. Not only does this satisfy one’s nurturing tendencies, as well as enhance mental health, but it also has the added benefit of air purification, which improves a variety of conditions, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, allergies, other respiratory diseases and immunocompromised conditions.
  • Animal therapy: This refers to having an animal as a companion to alleviate symptoms and develop coping mechanisms. Animals generally used are dogs, horses or birds. This provides comfort, decreases pain levels and increases motor skills and social interaction. This can be beneficial for patients with dementia, depression, anxiety, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, pain conditions or recovery from surgery or a stroke.
  • Green exercise: This involves performing a form of physical activity in a natural setting, such as walking outdoors, hiking, cycling, swimming or other mild outdoor recreation activities. Exercise releases neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which are associated with higher self-satisfaction and minimized feelings of stress and anxiety. It also leads to improved cardiovascular health, which is ideal for those with obesity, diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.
  • Nature arts and crafts: This entails enjoying hobbies outdoors, such as painting, writing or photography. Incorporating natural elements, such as leaves, flowers, twigs, wood and rocks and transforming them into art pieces is also recommended. This facilitates stress relief and boosts creativity, which helps those with anxiety and depression.
  • Mindfulness in nature: One way of engaging in this is using the senses and focusing on different aspects of nature through meditation. This can be performed with breathing exercises, touching the ground and listening to the birds and other animals outdoors. A study revealed that performing mindfulness in nature may reduce negative moods and urge stronger nature relatedness, resulting in interconnectedness and interdependence, reducing thoughts of isolation and increasing wellbeing.

These activities are simple and accessible enough for most home care clients, from pediatric to the elderly, and for those with physical and mental illnesses. Incorporating these activities into a weekly routine and educating them in alternative ways to cope may reap enhanced mental and physical health in your clients.

Axxess Home Care, a cloud-based home care software, provides mobile documentation capabilities for pediatric, medical and non-medical clients on any device even without an internet connection.


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