The Power Of Aromatherapy For The Elderly
Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic plants or essential oils to promote wellbeing through scent and has been used for centuries – it’s also known to improve sleep and digestion, as well as reduce stress, pain levels, anxiety, and depression. Elderly people can benefit from using it as relief from certain ailments and discomforts such as stress, arthritis and circulatory or respiratory problems – and those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia can especially benefit from regular aromatherapy. When the olfactory nerve in the nose is triggered, it signals the parts of the brain controlling emotions, mood, and memory. It is even known to reduce more difficult behaviours displayed in dementia patients, such as signs of agitation – wandering and excessive movement.
Aromatherapy is a simple, but effective, non-drug stress management technique which uses the powerful positive effect of scent on the body to improve health and well-being. It starts the moment the essential oils are released, either by warming them in an oil burner, adding them to a bath, in a room diffuser, dripping or spraying the scent onto pillows and tissues, or massaging infusions of the oil into the skin with cream. Popular essential oils known to relieve stress and calm and soothe the senses include rosemary, lavender, peppermint and ylang-ylang.
Aromatherapy has played an important role in holistic health and wellness practices for centuries. But its effects have been shown to help seniors suffering from a range of health problems:
- Rosemary works best for seniors with dementia it helps decrease cortisol levels and improve their memory. If you’re feeling stressed, peppermint will enhance feelings of happiness, while ylang-ylang kills bacteria, lowers high blood pressure and helps with insomnia.
- Anxiety and depression can be curbed by using citrus oils which have natural anti-depressant properties – orange, lemon, grapefruit, bergamot, or neroli.
- Colds, coughs, flu and blocked sinuses are alleviated by using essential oils with strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial, decongestant, and expectorant qualities. These include eucalyptus smithii, ravensara, peppermint, tea tree, lavender, rosemary and thyme.
- Lavender is known to boost feelings of contentment, sharpens memory performance and improves overall mood; lavender oil dripped sparingly onto a pillow or into a bath before bedtime is said to aid sleep.
Whilst aromatherapy for elderly people and their carers offers a wide range of health benefits, there are some things to consider:
- Check with your doctor before using, as some essential oils may interact with medications
- Do aromatherapy moderately as some essential oils can be toxic in large quantities
- Some essential oils can be very strong and thus they can cause a reaction with the skin when applied so always mix essential oils with a carrier oil before being applied
- Be gentle when giving aromatherapy massage to the elderly as their skin is thin and prone to tearing
- Elderly people should use half the recommended percentage of essential oil for an adult.
- Lastly, safely keep the essential oils after use as some patients may mistake them for their medications
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