What are the symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s? What are the contributing factors? How many people are affected? Can essential oils or aromatherapy be effective in lessening some of the symptoms such as anxiety, managing pain, stress, insomnia, and other symptoms. Find out more.
Today, 47 million people live with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease worldwide. This number is projected to increase to more than 131 million by 2050, as populations age. The interest in a holistic care approach to dementia care has been motivated by concerns that those dying with advanced dementia are often not seen as having a terminal condition and are much less likely than others to be managed palliatively.(1)
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease usually has a slow onset but worsens over time. Symptoms such as mild memory loss can develop into complete loss of language and response to environmental stimulus with advanced states.
Facts You May Not Know About Alzheimer’s(2):
• An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in
• Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and the fifth leading
cause of death among those age 65 and older. It also is a leading cause of
disability and poor health.
• Within the last decade, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease increased by 71%.
• Two-thirds of American Alzheimer’s patients are women.
• African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to be affected.
• By 2025 people with Alzheimer’s is estimated to increase by 40% – reaching 7.1 million
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a term used to describe a broad set of symptoms that occur due to brain disease.(3)
There are various types of dementias, and they are often categorized by the part of the brain damaged and whether the condition worsens. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in seniors over 65 years old. Dementia is progressive and eventually terminal; the average time between diagnosis and death is 8 to 10 years, but there is extreme variability with some dementias lasting up to 20 years or more. Symptoms include the loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and normal emotional reactions.
People experience dementia quite differently. In dementia, these symptoms progressively become worse and cause increasing difficulties in carrying out every day personal, social and work functions until the sufferer eventually becomes entirely dependent upon care. Although many people with dementia die first from other causes, advanced dementia will result in death.
• Age – The likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after the age of
65. For most people, symptoms first appear after the age of 60.
• Family history – Genetics play a role in an individual’s risk of developing the disease.
• Head trauma – There is a possible link between the disease and repeated trauma or loss of
• Heart health – The risk of vascular dementia increases with heart conditions such as high
blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
• Memory loss
• Repeating questions and statements
• Poor judgment
• Misplacing items
• Mood and personality changes
• Delusions and paranoia
• Weight loss
• Difficulty swallowing
• Increased sleeping
• Lack of control of bowel and bladder
• Trouble handling money
Aromatherapy Benefits and Barriers
Flower essences and aromatherapy can play a valuable role in calming the stressed, angry, demanding or fearful patient. Aromatherapy (the therapeutic use of pure plant essential oils) either applied in a massage oil or lotion and absorbed by the skin or inhaled and absorbed into the lungs and nasal passages have been found to improve physical and mental health. Aromatherapy is the fastest growing complementary therapy amongst caregivers to mitigate distress in their patients. In the USA it has recently been recognized as a legitimate part of holistic nursing.(4)
A number of recent, controlled studies have shown that aromatherapy can be useful in the management of patients with dementia: lavender (Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), rosemary, and bergamot are some essential oils of particular interest in this area.(5) While lavender is the most widely used essential oil, there is great scope for exploring other oils in synergy with flower essences that may increase cognitive function.
What Are Some of the Benefits of Aromatherapy?
The soothing benefits of aromatherapy reduces the number of drugs prescribed for patients.(6) Some of the benefits include:
• Reducing, anxiety, fear, and depression
• Managing pain
• Improving moods enabling a re-engagement in the pleasures of life
• Increasing appetite
• Promoting sleep at night
• Improving skin quality, reducing skin tears and discomfort
• Improving circulation
• Improving cognitive abilities
A person with dementia experiences a gradual decline in their abilities to think, remember and carry out their normal daily activities. They consequently require ever-increasing personal care and eventually become totally reliant upon their caregivers. Thus, the symptoms and care requirements of dementia present major challenges not only for the person with dementia, but for their family and friends as well. These challenges are so great that even the closest relationships, between a parent and child or a couple are vulnerable to breaking down.
We are entering a new era in health care where the public is informed regarding choices in health care and the availability of complementary and integrative healthcare modalities. There is a long history of empirical evidence supporting the use of aromatherapy as an adjunctive therapy to address these frequently reported symptoms. Aromatherapy also has been mentioned as a preventive first-line treatment, as an environmental intervention/behavioral modification, and to address dementia symptoms affecting cognition, emotions, memory loss, and sleep problems.
Although flower essence aromatherapy does not cure the disease, holistic Aromatherapy is supportive to the family of a patient in clinical care.(7) The well-rounded aromatherapy professional provides a level of care that integrates the use of essential oils, good nutrition, relaxation, restful sleep, clean water, and other methods of care and tools to support a healthy lifestyle.
The holistic use of essential oils and flower essences in dementia care and with Alzheimer’s patients is a therapeutic blessing for all people who suffer with the debilitating effects of this disease. The care community’s attention towards complementary and integrative methods like aromatherapy has given new hope to reduce the unwanted effects of dementia. If properly explored to their full potential, flower essence aromatherapy can not only benefit the patients but also their caregivers, families, and humanity.
1 Comas-Herrara, A., Knapp, M., Prince, M. Palliative Care, in World Alzheimer’s Report 2016. Improving health care for people living with dementia: coverage, quality and costs now and in the future, 2016; 70-84. London: Alzheimer’s Disease International.
2 Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures Report. https://www.alz.org/facts
3 National Institute on Aging. Alzheimer’s Disease Facts. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimersdisease-fact-sheet
4 Butje, A., Repede, E., Shatell, M. Healing scents: An overview of clinical aromatherapy for emotional distress. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 2008; 46:10.
5 Perry, E. Aromatherapy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The Journal of Quality Research in Dementia, 2009; (3).
6 Hogan, B.K., & Shattell, M.M. (2007). Fallout from the bio-logical model: Implications for psychiatric mental health nurses. Issues in Mental Health Nursing; 28:435-436.
7 Price S, Price L. (2011). Aromatherapy for health professionals. 4th ed. New York: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone
Maggie Smith is an advanced energy healer, aromatherapist, flower essence practitioner, teacher, and lecturer. She has devoted her life to expanding her knowledge of flower essence therapy and aromatherapy in the palliative care treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia. She shares her energy healing gifts as a heart offering to help people of all ages. She formulates and produces flower essence and aromatherapy care products for Hospice organizations as well as facilitates trainings around the US. To learn more about her products please visit: https://floweressencearomatherapy.com/
Maggie is a friend and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, a 501(c)3 health education nonprofit organization. All photos used in this article are by www.pixabay.com unless otherwise noted. To find out more about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance visit www.montereybayholistic.com
Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.