Is there a certain smell that reminds you of home? Is it fresh-baked cookies right out of the oven? Maybe the smell of Chanel No. 5 evokes memories of watching your mom get ready for a big night out.
Scents have been proven to connect with a person’s memory, and aromatherapy, or the use of essential oils, has been increasing in popularity when it comes to its effects on those living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.
Read on to learn more about how incorporating aromatherapy into caregiving may help when it comes to your loved one’s nighttime routine.
What is Aromatherapy?
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy defines aromatherapy as “the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize, and promote the health of body, mind, and spirit.”
While essential oils have been in use for decades, interest in aromatherapy and its effects on Alzheimer's disease and dementia has increased over the last 30 years.
Effects of Essential Oils on Alzheimer’s and Dementia
To date, there is limited research on aromatherapy and its effects on people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. However, some studies on aromatherapy and its effects on dementia have shown aromatherapy can help lessen related symptoms.
Aromatherapy and Sleep
Aromatherapy may be beneficial for those who have been diagnosed with sundowning, a state of late-day and nighttime confusion, which commonly affects people with dementia.
Using the same scent routinely to create a ritual can help your loved one relax as he or she prepares for sleep and help lessen the symptoms of sundowning.
Some essential oils that have been associated with promoting a better sleep environment include:
Essential Oil Application Methods and Safety
Essential oils can be used in many ways, such as with a diffuser, inhaled, topically (like through massage), and taken through a person’s diet.
However, The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate essential oils, so talk with your doctor before using any to make sure they will not have a negative interaction with medication.
If you’re looking for additional resources about dementia and other cognitive issues, our TopStories newsletter is a great source to find more information on Alzheimer’s disease and memory care.