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Using Aromatherapy in Care Homes

Recent studies in aromatherapy in care homes have suggested that aromatherapy oils could have long term benefits in treating elderly people, and especially in relieving the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Aromatherapy in Care Homes Wonder Oils?

The studies, undertaken at private care homes in Japan and the UK, have revealed stunning evidence of aromatherapy in care homes being used in tackling memory loss, depression, anxiety, muscle spasms and hyperactivity and even in preventing falls. The oils were administered to a controlled group of elderly persons in a private nursing home, while another group received a placebo. The results showed that oils, in particular lavender, could provide effective treatment. 21 residents treated with lavender were compared to others given ordinary massages for one week. Aromatherapy was seen to significantly reduce the frequency of excessive motor behaviour.

Over the course of one week, lemon balm and lavender were observed to increase functional abilities and communication in comparison to a controlled placebo group. Other effects monitored were reduced agitated behaviour and social withdrawal and an improved result on the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE).

Reducing Falls in Elderly Residents

Lavender is considered the safest of aromatherapy oils, and when tested it appeared to produce the greatest benefits for Alzheimer’s residents. Alongside a reported reduction in anxiety and agitation, the Japanese study took a controlled group of residents and tested them against a placebo in order to study the potential for lavender oil to reduce falls.

Falls can be devastating for elderly people, both psychologically and physically, with a proven link to increased morbidity after several falls. Over the course of one year, the private care homes in the study reported 62 total falls. However, subjects in the lavender group fell just 0-5 times, with the placebo group falling 0-7 times. In the lavender test group, 35.6% of subjects fell at least one time, while the number was 50% in the placebo group. 47% of these were recurrent falls, while this number was only 24% in the lavender group. Neither group had any differences in baseline behavioural and cognitive measurements, and yet after 12 months the group treated with aromatherapy had a significant decrease in agitation.

So how does it work? There is some evidence that some chemicals (terpenes) have an effect on brain receptors, which in turn affect the subject’s behaviour and mood. However, there remains a mystery behind the mechanics of aromatherapy. First indications are promising in treating Alzheimer’s sufferers, but until the medical establishment reaches a consensus on how exactly these oils affect the brain, they are unlikely to be widely promoted.

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