Aromatherapy uses scents to trigger memories and emotions in dementia patients. Scents can help reduce common dementia symptoms like agitation, aggression, lack of motivation, and trouble sleeping. Aromatherapy provides a calming environment and improves quality of life. This article explores how aromatherapy works, suggested scents to use, and tips for using it safely at home.
How Aromatherapy Helps Dementia Patients
Dementia causes damage to the brain in areas important in memory, thinking, and behaviour. Patients frequently get frustrated, worried, or angry as a result. They may have problems sleeping or experience sundowning in the evenings. Aromatherapy stimulates the limbic system, which governs emotions and behaviour. Scents are tightly related in the brain to memories and emotions. When dementia sufferers smell familiar, pleasant odours from their history, they can feel instantly calmed. Positive memories and sentiments related with those recollections are triggered by the fragrances.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
Multiple studies have shown aromatherapy provides many benefits for dementia patients:
- Reduces agitation, anxiety, frustration, and aggression
- Lessens sundowning behavior in the evenings
- Improves sleep patterns and duration
- Boosts mood and increases engagement
- Increases motivation and interest in activities
- Stimulates appetite which is often poor in dementia patients
Aromatherapy works quickly to change mood and behavior in a positive way. It is considered a safe, effective supportive therapy for dementia patients.
Choosing Meaningful Scents
Consider the patient’s personal history and experiences when selecting scents for aromatherapy. Scents linked to positive memories will have the greatest impact. For example:
- Freshly baked bread if they enjoyed cooking and baking
- Garden scents like fresh cut grass if they were an avid gardener
- Fruity or floral scents if they worked in agriculture
- Ocean or beach scents if they frequently vacationed seaside
- Pipe tobacco or coffee if they smoked or drank coffee daily
- Baby powder or clean linen if they had young children
Talk to the patient, look at old photos, or speak to family members to identify meaningful scents from the past.
Aromatherapy Options for Home Use
There are many easy aromatherapy options families can use at home:
- Scented candles or wax melts
- Essential oils or oil diffusers
- Scented lotions, soaps, or bath products
- Potpourri, especially when warmed
- Dried or fresh flowers, herbs, spices
- Pre-made aromatherapy kits designed for dementia patients
Start with mild scents and monitor reactions closely. Avoid very strong scents that could overwhelm. Limit exposure to 30 minutes or less.
Using Aromatherapy Safely
It’s important to use aromatherapy safely when caring for dementia patients:
- Supervise use closely to avoid ingestion or skin irritation
- Ensure good ventilation if using oils or candles
- Discontinue use immediately if any negative reaction occurs
- Keep candles, wax melts, and incense away from flames and out of reach
- Store essential oils and scented products out of reach of children and pets
Consult a doctor before using aromatherapy if your loved one has respiratory issues or allergies.
Enhancing the Aromatherapy Experience
You can pair aromatherapy with other sensory experiences to enhance reminiscence and provide a relaxing activity:
- Play favorite music from the patient’s younger years
- Look at old photos and talk about the memories
- Handle tactile objects related to the scents, like vintage books or fabrics
- Bake cookies or make a nostalgic recipe
Combining multiple senses creates a more immersive, engaging experience for the dementia patient.
Aromatherapy is an effective method for creating a tranquil environment at home for dementia patients. Carers can reduce anxiety, promote sleep, and improve quality of life by selecting scents associated with happy memories and employing aromatherapy safely. Aromatherapy is an easy method to reconnect with a loved one by recalling happy memories from the past.