Essential oils have been making their comeback and dominating every industry, from lavender-infused coffee to lotion with peppermint oil.
Today, the current essential oil trend in senior health is the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy for seniors, especially in elderlies with dementia and cognitive problems.
So, does aromatherapy really live up to the hype? Below is a discussion on the health benefits of aromatherapy for seniors like those residing in memory care communities in Macomb, MI. Learn what essential oil to use for specific health conditions to help bring relief and wellness to your loved ones.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oil refers to the actual oil or liquid extracted from the various parts of a plant, herb, flower, or tree (e.g., its petals, bark, and leaves). These oils are obtained through pressing or steaming to capture the raw nutrients together with the aromatic components that make a specific plant or flower fragrant.
Once extracted, the aromatic compound will then be mixed with a carrier oil to make it commercially ready for use.
Any individual can reap the benefits of essential oils through a practice called aromatherapy.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy refers to a thousand-year-old practice started by the ancient Egyptians, which uses essential oils to improve one’s physical, mental, or spiritual ailment. It is a holistic healing method that promotes health and wellness minus the side effects of most medications.
Aromatherapy works by inhaling the “essence” of essential oil or by applying it to the skin. This can be done using some apparatus, like a diffuser, to facilitate inhalation or through other products or essential oil forms, such as:
- Aromatic spritzers
- Bath salts
- Facial steamer
- Body lotion, cream, massage oil, and clay face mask.
- Hot and cold compress
Through inhalation or topical administration, the healthful benefits of essential oils have direct access to the lungs, skin, brain, and amygdala (a part of the brain), which holds the emotional faculties of an individual.
Aromatherapy has been the topic of numerous health-related scientific research studies, which yielded varying results. But one of the most backed studies about it is its benefits to senior health, specifically those living with dementia.
Benefits of Aromatherapy for Seniors (and specific essential oils for particular health problems)
Health experts and scientific studies found aromatherapy to be very effective in treating the psychological and emotional conditions of seniors. Furthermore, it has been a great help in decreasing and relieving some of the symptoms experienced by many older adults with chronic health conditions.
Here are some of its proven benefits to seniors’ health, especially to elders living in the Oakleigh of Macomb memory care community in Macomb, MI.
1. Relieves Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are two of the most common mental problems of seniors today due to the ongoing pandemic. Luckily, essential oils offer a way to relieve stress and anxiety naturally without putting any artificial chemicals in the body.
According to studies, specific essential oils from plants and fruits produce beneficial psychological effects directly to the brain through inhalation. As a result, these oils can help calm the nerves and balance out anxious feelings and negative emotions.
Additionally, the olfactory system (your sense of smell) can also directly impact your emotions, which helps bring you to a state of calmness. Some of the best essential oils to use for stress and anxiety include:
- Bergamot orange
- Clary sage
Let your loved one enjoy their aromatherapy session by making their bedroom environment more relaxing through dim lighting, calming music, and a quiet diffuser.
2. Help Ease Dementia Symptoms
One of the best scientifically-backed breakthroughs in aromatherapy research is its ability to help ease dementia symptoms in seniors.
Japanese-led research suggests that certain plant extracts, like rosemary, contain active compounds that enhance memory and cognitive performance. Another study also found it effective in battling the memory loss symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients without inflicting adverse side effects, unlike the drug medications commonly used.
Aromatherapy using thyme, clove, eucalyptus, bergamot, and rose also aids in preventing inflammation in the brain and delaying some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
3. Enhances Sleep Quality
Sleep troubles affect almost 50% of older adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They experience an even harder time falling and staying asleep due to the brain deterioration the disease can cause.
Fortunately, inhaling lavender essential oil can easily relax your loved ones and help them sleep. This enhanced sleep quality can then help manage some symptoms of their dementia, including sundowning and agitation.
4. Boosts Mood and Energy
Seniors with dementia often experience mood swings as a consequence of their disease. Some of the most common mood problems encountered by caregivers include:
- Agitation and restlessness
- Depression and loneliness
If your loved one experiences this, then a great way to help them deal with it is through aromatherapy. It works its wonders by directly regulating mood and emotions through olfactory nerves.
One study even found that lavender essential oil has the same calming effect as an anti-anxiety medication. Some of the best oils to use in calming the nerves and relaxing the body other than lavender include peppermint, lemon, and ylang-ylang.
5. Improves Digestive Function
Ginger oil has been found to have digestive stimulatory effects that can enhance digestion and prevent constipation. Additionally, it contains chemical properties that can help with nausea, loss of appetite, and other digestive issues.
You can let your loved one undergo aromatherapy using ginger oil via inhalation, a diffuser, room spray, or abdominal massage. Besides ginger oil, other essential oils like fennel, rosemary, lemon, and peppermint are also effective for digestive relief.
6. Eases Pain from Other Health Conditions
Aromatherapy has also been found to be an excellent complementary treatment to some chronic health conditions experienced by seniors. This includes:
- Joint pains in arthritis
- Pains from kidney stones
- Ease the side effects of cancer treatments, like vomiting and nausea
If your loved one suffers from some of these conditions, then it would not hurt to let them try aromatherapy in their memory care community in Macomb, MI. It’s a holistic and natural way to improve the health of your loved ones and help with their battle against dementia.