“Aromatherapy is a great first resource to consider because it is holistic and natural,” said Tina Vauthier, Executive Director at Westpark Village senior living community in Billings, Montana.
Aromatherapy and essential oils have become increasingly popular in recent years for good reason. They can be used as natural tools to promote healthy aging. Incorporating them into one’s daily care can help address many key areas.
“Aromatherapy and essential oils can help with improved mood, decreased agitation, improved sleep, improved appetite and a decrease in pain,” said Katie Westberg, Director of Life Enrichment for The Goodman Group.
While there are a variety of essential oils available, here are some we have found to be most beneficial for aging adults:
Lavender exudes relaxation. Its soothing quality contributes to a sense of ease and it has also been known to help improve memory and cognitive abilities. “We provide a lot of lavender hand and shoulder rubs,” said Tina. “They are very calming. We have had some big successes, especially in our memory care community.”
Tina remembers a memory care resident named Betty who benefited greatly from lavender oil massages. “She had been sundowning (late-day dementia symptom) quite a bit in the afternoons, which meant showing signs of confusion and tiredness. We discovered that Betty benefited greatly from massages.”
“We noticed that Betty’s symptoms of sundowning significantly decreased to showing almost no signs of confusion or anxiety, even without using any medication” Tina says.
Spearmint oil can be used as an appetite enhancer for those with low weight. “If a resident has a low appetite, we can add spearmint oil to a dampened cloth and then have the resident use it to wipe their hands before dinner to stimulate their eating. It works so well.” said Tina.
We recommend delivery of the spearmint oils 15-20 minutes before eating to allow it to stimulate appetite.
Frankincense has been known to relieve achiness and joint pain when massaged onto the skin. Like lavender, it is also known to help increase a sense of peace and relaxation. Frequently at Westpark Village, caregivers will add drops of frankincense to a cotton ball and place it in the resident’s pillowcase to promote relaxation.
Delivery of Essential Oils
There are many different ways essential oils can be used. They can be diffused into the air for inhalation in a bedroom or a small group setting, for example, or they can be added to a non-scented lotion for massage.
The more you use essential oils, the better you will be at determining the amount of oil to use, how you should deliver it and the best times to do it. For instance, you may be able to determine a specific time of day you or your loved one feels more agitated. You can then deliver the oils prior to that time, which may help to diminish some of the anxiety.
“Delivery is only just a piece of it. When you are in those moments, you are creating a sense of trust. Our team members provide one-on-one therapy, or just sit and reminisce and create a safe environment where people feel cared for” said Tina.
The FDA has not evaluated the statements or claims within this blog. No claims are made as to any medicinal value of aromatherapy essential oils. The information presented here is for educational purposes of traditional uses and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You are responsible for understanding the safe application of these products. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician.