Aromatherapy and Dementia

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bigstock-Aromatherapy-Oils-4819152-300x200.jpgSome of the most common symptoms of dementia manifest themselves in the form of agitation, restlessness, irritability, and aggression. Most of us have felt those emotions from time to time, but imagine how it would feel to experience those feelings almost all the time, around the clock. It is a cycle that can perpetuate itself. Nobody likes to feel agitated, so those who are unable to get rid of such feelings may soon begin to feel even more agitation and irritability. Fortunately, researchers are now starting to discover the benefits of aromatherapy for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

We have all experienced that smell that reminds us of a happy memory. Perhaps we think of our grandmother's house or another place that makes us feel comforted and serene. The concept that certain odors have an effect on our mood is not really foreign to us. However, certain essential oils have been shown to have beneficial effects not only when we smell them, but also when they are applied transdermally, or to the skin. Aromatic oils have been used for thousands of years with little side effects.

Which Oils Should I Use?

Lemon Balm. This calming oil has been shown to reduce anxiety and promote healthy sleep habits.

Lavender. Lavender oil is very soothing and can even help with depression.

Peppermint. This oil can calm the nerves as well as stimulate the mind and the appetite.

Rosemary. This oil stimulates both the mind and the body. Caution should be exercised not to overstimulate.

Bergamot. Bergamot calms the mind and elevates the mood.

There may be other essential oil that work well for your loved one and even for yourself. Many aromatic oils can be mixed to maximize their potential. Studies have shown one should not mix too many stimulating oils in treating dementia patients, because such ones may become too alert and start to resist care.

How is Treatment Applied?

The obvious choice for aromatherapy application is to be able to actually smell the aromatic oil. There are several ways this can be done.

Ambient diffusion. A gentle mist in the room, such as through a spray, yields quick results.

Direct inhalation. Placing a few drops of oil on a handkerchief or pillow and inhaling can also be effective.Unfortunately, many dementia patients have lost their sense of smell. If this is the case, the options below may prove useful.

Massage. Massage has many benefits in stress reduction and detoxification, and when combined with aromatherapy the oils can penetrate the skin to provide benefits.

Bath. Drops added to bathwater can be very effective.

Compress. Add a few drops of essential oil to a bowl of warm water and soak a washcloth in it. Wring out the washcloth and apply it to the skin.

While aromatherapy is no cure for Alzheimer's or dementia, studies have shown that it may alleviate many of the symptoms. Always check with your physician to ensure there are no contraindications.

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