Although a cure for Alzheimer’s disease has yet to be found, a variety of treatments are available to help those who suffer manage their symptoms. Holistic treatments, such as aromatherapy, art and music therapy and more, aim not just to relieve physical symptoms, but also to promote mental and emotional wellness. Aromatherapy helps manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease while enhancing overall well-being.
Elaine Austin, Executive Director at Provident Village at Creekside in Smyrna, GA, says, “Aromatherapy helps those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias by providing a sense of calm or increasing their energy. It can enhance mood or provide comfort. While it may not be a singular solution to the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s, aromatherapy has been proven to help manage challenging behaviors and ailments brought on by the disease.”
Benefits of Aromatherapy for Alzheimer’s
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries for a wide variety of health benefits, utilizing just as wide a variety of plants. Today, this kind of therapy is most commonly applied with essential oils. Research is limited on the effects of aromatherapy on dementia patients, but many studies have proven the therapy’s ability to relieve Alzheimer’s symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, aromatherapy works by employing smell receptors to stimulate the part of the brain that controls emotions. It has been shown to relieve symptoms such as anxiety and depression and to positively affect the quality of life for those with chronic illnesses, such as dementia. Certain essential oils might even have the ability to stimulate cognitive functioning and memory for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Aromatherapy can be very beneficial for caregivers as well. The stress of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can influence emotional and physical health, as well as sleep, all of which aromatherapy can help.
Common Essential Oils Used for Aromatherapy
A number of essential oils are helpful in easing the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the article “Manage Dementia’s Side Effects with These 7 Essential Oils,” Alzheimer’s.net suggests useful oils for aromatherapy and how they can help caregivers improve their loved one’s quality of life.
- Lavender – Has a calming effect and helps balance strong emotions; helps with depression, anger and irritability
- Peppermint – Works as an energizer; can be used to simultaneously stimulate the mind while calming nervousness
- Rosemary – Energizes and stimulates the mind; may improve cognitive function and mood; can ease depression symptoms and reinvigorate the appetite
- Bergamot – Elevates mood by relieving stress, agitation, anxiety and depression
- Lemon Balm – Calms and relaxes anxiety, improves memory and eases indigestion
- Ylang Ylang – Eases depression and promotes good sleep
- Ginger – Promotes good eating habits by treating loss of appetite, constipation and digestion issues
These essential oils and others can be used and combined to offer relief from Alzheimer’s symptoms. Although considered safe, the FDA does not regulate essential oils. Before trying aromatherapy, talk to a doctor about possible allergies to oils or interactions with other medications.
In addition to essential oils, you can provide aromatherapy using objects with familiar or meaningful smells to stimulate memories and bring comfort. Oranges may bring back memories of childhood Christmases, or a favorite quilt may still hold the smell of a beloved home.
Using Aromatherapy for a Loved One at Home
Aromatherapy can be applied in different ways, each with their own benefit of convenience or sensory care. Common applications include:
- Misting – Mix essential oils and water and use a spray bottle or misting device to disperse the oils in the air.
- Inhalation – Place a few drops of oil onto a tissue and inhale through the nose.
- Compress – Stir a few drops of oil into a bowl of warm or cool water, wet a cloth and apply the infused cloth to the skin.
- Bath or Foot Bath – Add a few drops of oil to a warm bath or provide a foot soak or massage.
- Body Oil – After a bath or shower, apply purchased body oil (or essential oil mixed with carrier oil) to the skin.
- Massage – Using body oil or infused lotion, provide a gentle massage to the skin and muscles.
Be careful to use essential oils as directed. If you are applying oils directly to the skin, always dilute the oils with water.
Care for the Body, Mind and Spirit
At Provident Village at Creekside’s Memory Care Neighborhood, residents enjoy vibrant days. “We specially design activities and utilize care practices that work to prolong cognitive functioning and stimulate the mind,” says Austin. “Aromatherapy is among the several holistic treatments we use to help those with Alzheimer’s disease and memory impairments experience total well-being.
“In hopes of being a valuable resource to family caregivers, our community hosts frequent educational and supportive programs for those caring for a loved one with memory loss. Our events are free and open to anyone who wants to learn how to provide better care for their loved one. Visit our website to see a schedule of our upcoming events.”
Live Vibrantly! at Provident Village at Creekside
At Provident Village at Creekside, we believe vibrant days ensure bright tomorrows, so we’ve created a community where seniors, quite simply, Live Vibrantly! Whether it’s in our Assisted Living Community or Memory Care Neighborhood, each day we celebrate the individuality and strengths of each resident.
At Provident Village, to Live Vibrantly! means that days are filled with joy, vitality, growth and security. It means residents are socially active and personally empowered, with access to the personalized care and support they need to live fully. It means residing in a community where intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and physical care are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.
Our compassionate Care Partners dedicate each day to enriching the lives of our residents. They customize the level of attention and activities to each resident’s specific needs and abilities. Our living environments are warm and inviting, with comfortable furnishings, beautiful fixtures and natural elements that bring the outdoors inside.