The Use of Aromatherapy to Aid Relief for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils either in conjunction with a massage or inhaled.  Aromatherapy has been used for thousands of years in many cultures and is currently used worldwide for stress, depression, anxiety, cognitive disorders as well as many other uses.

I know the effects can be profound from the results I get with clients and whilst I know they are deeply grateful for the positive effects aromatherapy has had on both their psychological and physical wellbeing, this would only be considered as anecdotal evidence.

As this month recognises Dementia Awareness Week, 15 – 21 May, I wanted to show that aromatherapy is being studied around the world as a means of treating Dementia and Alzheimer’s with positive results ranging from improving cognitive function, effects on behaviours and emotions, enhancing independence in terms of daily activities and many more. The full studies can be read in the appendix below.

Carers Benefit Too
It is not just the patient that can benefit from aromatherapy.  I have seen many times the stress that looking after a relative with Alzheimer’s or dementia can put on the care giver.  Often this relative is also elderly, a husband or wife, often with their own health issues and the stress; caused by the constant need for vigilance and often arguments that occur as a result of the Alzheimer’s or dementia patient accusing the other person of moving their things or trying to confuse them; can often push that care giver to the edge of their own sanity.

Many carers in this situation can feel isolated, confused and ultimately despair.  Aromatherapy massage can offer many benefits both through the effect of the oils, which can be blended to combat stress as well as their own personal symptoms, and through the treatment itself.  Many of my clients will talk to me of their troubles during the first part of the massage and this simple act of sharing their problem with an empathetic listener can lighten that burden, if only for a little while.

Another therapeutic benefit is that the carer is taking some time out for themselves.  I have clients who care for others who see me regularly and the time they spend with me is often the only time they take for themselves in a whole week or even fortnight.  Both the massage and the oils can allow the carer to deeply relax and have renewed energy to continue with the challenge of caring.

The final benefit I will discuss here is that of touch.  Touch is well documented to be vastly important for our health.  Babies deprived of touch display severe development problems and may even die if untouched for a prolonged period.

Tiffany Field[1] from the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine says that “the healing power of touch extends across the life span, from helping babies grow and children concentrate at school to decreasing chronic illnesses and disease.” I have also given a link below to a video interview that Tiffany did which is fascinating.

Touch is how we show someone that we care about them and yet for those giving care to others they may never experience someone else touching them in a loving or caring way.  Touch alone has been proven to:

  • Decrease anxiety
  • Increase the number of white blood cells – therefore increasing immunity levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase endorphin levels – the hormones responsible for making you feel good
  • Help you sleep better

A full body massage with aromatherapy oils will give you amazing benefits.  I sometimes meet people who say that they could never get undressed in front of me so let me first clarify that a good massage therapist will never want to make you feel uncomfortable nor expect you to appear naked in front them.   You will be given the opportunity to undress in private and will then be covered by towels in such a manner that only the part of your body being massaged will be exposed – an arm, leg or your back.

If that still makes you feel uncomfortable there are ways to experience the benefits of aromatherapy without getting undressed.  The most unobtrusive would be a simple hand and arm massage.  If you feel comfortable in shorts the legs and feet can also be included.

Please get in touch to experience the benefits I know that aromatherapy can offer to either your relative with Dementia and Alzheimer’s or to yourself as a care giver.

References
[1] http://uhealthsystem.com/researchers/profile/2581 AND https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UixQLs5Utc8

For full references please refer to Sandra’s website

To book in with Sandra please call 01244 915 603