We all know there is a strong connection between scents and memories, as smelling favorite scents can send someone back to their happiest memories or days that will never come back.
Exposure to fragrances, or aromatherapy, is one of many pathways to better health and longevity. It doesn’t just exude nose-pleasing smells but has also been proven effective in improving and maintaining humans’ physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. In recent years, limited studies yielding promising outcomes have pointed out that aromatherapy has some potential for alleviating the distressing symptoms of dementia.
What is the advantage of aromatherapy for dementia, and how does it benefit the mental well-being and general health of those living with dementia? Read our guide for the superpowers of essential oils for seniors dealing with hazy memories.
The Superpowers of Essential Oils for Seniors with Dementia and Memory Loss
The Basics of Aromatherapy: What Is It and How Does It Work?
Aromatherapy, or essential oil therapy, is an alternative natural treatment that uses aromatic extracts and compounds from different parts of botanical plants (leaves, flowers, seeds, barks, fruits) to promote well-being and remedy many health conditions.
While the term “aromatherapy” has only been popularized over the last 30 years, many historical records suggest that holistic treatment has been around for much longer than we thought.
Before the advancement of modern or synthetic medicines, natural substances had been inked and practiced in many ancient civilizations, such as Egypt, India, and China, for healing, spiritual, hygienic, and therapeutic purposes. Ancient Egyptians used mixtures of essential oils to purify the air during ritual ceremonies, while the Chinese viewed healing properties from herbs and plants as natural cures for many ailments.
The practice administers essential oils through inhalation or skin absorption, sometimes ingestion, under the strict supervision of aromatherapists. These are considered one of several pathways to improving longevity and invigorating the body.
Monitored uses of essential oils are believed to cleanse and purify the body and mind with their diverse content of psychological and pharmacological properties hitting the central nervous system once entered into the body.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a progressive decline in memory and mental acuity occurring among older adults, with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease being the most common causes.
As dementia progresses and adversely affects different parts of the brain, seniors can experience varying levels of deterioration in their behavior, language, logical thinking, sleep patterns, and functional ability to keep up with everyday tasks. Over time, they are led to heavily depend on caregivers or specialized facilities for seniors with memory impairment.
What makes dementia a concerning age-related issue among already-vulnerable seniors is that it is irreversible. It technically means that lost abilities can’t be recovered, and the most practical way to minimize the impacts on the brain requires coordination of early diagnosis and proper care.
However, diagnosing dementia can be difficult and even costly. Vague and inconsistent symptoms in the early stages facilitate the condition to go under the radar for years before getting serious, not to mention that there is no established test to determine whether a person has dementia.
What Is the Advantage of Aromatherapy for Dementia?
While medical measures and healthy lifestyle habits have been backed by scientists and health experts in preventing dementia, recent studies have suggested that aromatherapy could be an optimal option to relieve symptoms associated with memory loss.
What is the benefit of aromatherapy for dementia? And how do essential oils support seniors dealing with dementia and memory disturbances?
One of the most talked-about powers of aromatherapy is busting stress and easing anxiety. When inhaled, millions of fragrance molecules make it all the way from the nostril hairs to the olfactory bulb, where they are converted into a neural message. After entering the brain’s limbic system, the neural message proceeds to the hypothalamus and hippocampus, the two vital, complex brain structures responsible for memory storage. Specifically, the hypothalamus coordinates long-term memory, allowing a person to memorize general information or worldwide facts. The hippocampus functions as a regulator for short-term or episodic memories.
With too much stress being another primary reason behind diminished memory, using aromatherapy for dementia can foster calmness and relaxation for agitated and aggressive seniors when their conditions go downhill as time goes by. Through stimulating the endocrine glands and limbic system, essential oils contribute to the release of mood-boosting hormones.
In a 1998 study conducted with 36 seniors residing in a memory care facility, a 10-minute hand massage session using a mixture of essential oils helped increase contentment and promote better sleep in participants while suppressing their agitation, aggression, the tendency of withdrawal and wandering, and other psychotic symptoms.
In addition to dementia prevention, aromatherapy is believed to improve cognitive functions, with a 2012 study demonstrating that rosemary oils can boost overall brain functions. Another study from Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy from the very next year further highlighted that the extracts from evergreen shrubs might help older adults with memory decline remember future tasks and events from a long time ago.
Other Health Advantages of Aromatherapy Oils
There are over 100 essential oils available, serving different health purposes and improvements. Some of the most popular essential oils are lavender, peppermint, lemon, lemongrass, eucalyptus, tea tree, and chamomile.
Some more health advantages of aromatherapy are as follows:
- Lavender oils may help to boost wound healing, manage anxiety symptoms, fight insomnia, promote hair growth, lower anxiety levels, and alleviate PMS symptoms.
- Peppermint oils may help to reduce stress, relieve pain, improve mental health, enhance bowel movements, boost hair health, and cure colds.
- Chamomile oils may help speed up wound healing, relieve joint pain and discomfort, aid sleep, reduce skin puffiness, eliminate depression, and reduce blood pressure.
- Rose oils may help to ease pain, stimulate sex stamina, relieve depressive symptoms, and ease menstrual discomfort.
- Tea tree oils may help to promote skin and oral health, prevent skin infections, prevent fungal development, and soothe respiratory complaints.
- Lemongrass oils may help to relieve digestive problems, reduce cholesterol, relieve pain, regulate blood sugar levels, and ease stress and anxiety.
- Bergamot oils may help to lower cholesterol, improve mental health, treat nasal congestion, promote oral health, reduce fever, and tame stress.
- Jasmine oils may help to increase energy and alertness, boost skin health, enhance sleep quality, ease hormonal issues, and defend against bacterial invasion.
If you have questions about aromatherapy for dementia or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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