How Aromatherapy Can Soothe Alzheimer’s Symptoms

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For a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, life can be frustrating, confusing, and scary. Aromatherapy makes the challenges of Alzheimer’s more manageable. This type of complementary medicine uses essential oils to boost wellbeing for the mind, emotions, and body. Here’s how aromatherapy can make life easier for your loved one. 

Science of Aromatherapy

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts with restorative qualities. The liquids are pressed or distilled from plant parts such as flowers, fruits, bark, leaves, roots, and seeds. After processing, an oil contains the “essence” of its source plant, including its scent, flavour, and biological compounds. When you inhale the vapour, receptor sites in your nose respond by sending nerve messages to your brain. Then specific brain regions interpret these signals, producing physiological effects. Activated brain areas include the: 

  • Hippocampus – Used for learning and memory
  • Amygdala – Registers emotion
  • Hypothalamus – Produces hormones that govern body processes such as digestion, cardiovascular function, body temperature, appetite, sleep, behaviour, and memory formation
  • Pituitary gland – Releases hormones that control organs, such as those involved with metabolism, immunity, pain, and moods

Aromatherapy for Alzheimer’s disease incorporates essential oils that induce pleasant feelings, memories, behaviours, and thoughts. Some reduce physical discomfort such as nausea, headaches, and joint pain. Certain plant extracts boost alertness and mental function.

A 2009 study reported in Psychogeriatrics evaluated the impact of aromatherapy on seniors with Alzheimer’s. Over a one-month period, participants were exposed to essential oils of lemon and rosemary in the morning and lavender and orange at night. All the subjects showed marked increase in cognitive function, as measured by dementia assessment tools. Lab results confirmed no adverse effects from the aromatherapy. 

Caring for an older adult with Alzheimer’s can be challenging for caregivers who don’t have experience. If your senior loved one needs help managing an illness or assistance with daily tasks, make sure you choose a top-rated provider of senior home care. Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one live a happier and healthier life in the golden years. From the mentally stimulating activities in our Cognitive Therapeutics Method to our friendly Care Managers who are available to answer your questions 24 hours a day, we offer a wide array of high-quality at-home care services.

Symptomatic Relief

Here are some common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and the essential oils that can ease them: 

  • Anger, irritability, and aggression – Lavender, lemon balm, ylang-ylang 
  • Anxiety and agitation – Bergamot, frankincense, lavender, rose geranium, lemon balm, rose, ylang-ylang 
  • Constipation – Ginger, sweet orange, rosemary 
  • Communication difficulties – Lemon balm
  • Confusion and forgetfulness – Basil, bergamot, frankincense, ginger, lemongrass, jasmine, rosemary, lemon, peppermint, Spanish sage, lemon balm 
  • Depression – Rose geranium, lavender, lemon, sweet orange, rose, lemon balm, basil, bergamot, frankincense, ylang-ylang 
  • Disinterest and lethargy – Ginger, jasmine, lavender, peppermint, rose
  • Headache – Basil, bergamot, lavender, peppermint 
  • Joint and muscle pain – Rosemary, ginger + black pepper
  • Restlessness and insomnia – Frankincense, lavender, lemon balm, Roman chamomile, ylang-ylang 
  • Poor appetite – Rosemary, basil, lemon 
  • Sundowning – Frankincense + grapefruit ease distress triggered by fading light at dusk 

If your elderly loved one is living with Alzheimer’s and needs help managing the symptoms, turn to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of Alzheimer’s care. Edmonton seniors can rely on our revolutionary Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program that promotes cognitive health and delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. CTM also encourages seniors to engage with others in an enjoyable way and helps them build new routines to look forward to.

Dilution Rate

There are many options for utilizing aromatherapy detailed below. For skin application, always dilute essential oil in a carrier oil such as olive, sesame, or sweet almond. Without dilution, essential oils can irritate the skin, causing rashes. For seniors, a safe dilution rate is 2 percent. To achieve this, blend 2 drops of essential oil with 1 teaspoon of carrier oil or 6 drops of essential oil with 1 tablespoon of carrier oil. To retain potency, store oils away from sunlight and heat, which will degrade them. 

Patch Test

If your loved one has sensitive skin or allergies, do a small patch test. Blend 1 drop of essential oil with 1 teaspoon of carrier oil and apply to your loved one’s inner forearm. After a few hours, check the skin. If there’s no rash or redness, the essential oil should be safe to use on larger skin areas. If the skin is irritated, wash it with olive oil followed by cool water, and don’t use that particular essential oil. Instead, test another one. Extracts generally safe for sensitive skin are lavender and chamomile. 

Application Methods

  • Bath – Mix 8 drops of lavender or chamomile oil and ½ cup of milk and add to bathwater. Before your loved one enters the tub, agitate the bathwater to disperse the oil. 
  • Body oil – After bathing, blend lemon balm or lavender oil with carrier oil and apply to skin. 
  • Chest balm – Mix rosemary or lavender with carrier oil and massage over the chest. 
  • Diffusion – Disperse vapour of any essential oil into the air using a diffuser. Various models are available, such as reed, heat, fan, ultrasonic, and nebulizing. For a reed diffuser, place the stick in a bottle of essential oil. For a warming diffuser, use 3 to 5 drops of essential oil. A fan diffuser passes cool air through a pad soaked with 4 to 8 drops of essential oil. Ultrasonic machines disperse a fine mist using electricity. Nebulizing devices have a vacuum mechanism, delivering a potent mist. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for ultrasonic and nebulizing machines. 
  • Inhalation – Sprinkle a tissue or handkerchief with 3 drops of essential oil and let your loved one sniff the scent. Enable steam inhalation by adding 5 drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water and placing it beyond your loved one’s reach. 
  • Scented pillow – Apply 3 drops of essential oil to a tissue and tuck inside a pillowcase. 
  • Spray – Add 20 drops of essential oil, 2 ounces of water, and 2 ounces of witch hazel to an 8-ounce spray bottle. Shake well, then spritz the air. You can also mist clothing and linens, provided the essential oil has a light colour. Dark essential oils can stain fabric. 
  • Massage – Dilute essential oil with carrier oil and gently rub into muscles and joints, or give a massage using 2 drops of essential oil mixed into 1 teaspoon of unscented body lotion. 

Seniors can face a variety of age-related challenges. Though some families choose to take on the caregiving duties, there may come a time when they need a trusted Edmonton in-home care provider. Families sometimes need respite from their duties so they can focus on their other responsibilities, and some seniors need around-the-clock assistance that their families are not able to provide. Home Care Assistance is here to help. To create a customized home care plan for your loved one, call us at (780) 490-7337 today.


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