Patients with dementia face a number of challenging issues that complicate their care and compromise their quality of life. A number of essential oils have well-documented efficacy in the management and amelioration of some of these issues and can reduce the burden on caregivers as well as improve patients’ life experience.
Agitation and Combativeness: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is one of the most effective essential oils for reducing agitation and combativeness and in one study a patient who was so combative that he required sedation was found to improve dramatically when a cotton ball with a couple of drops of lavender oil was pinned to his shirt. Other studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of lavender for reducing aggressiveness and agitation in this population, either employed as single oil or as a component of a blend. Other essential oils employed in these studies have included mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata), geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and marjoram (Origanum majorana). In my own experience with patients, I have found the combination of lavender essential oil and frankincense (Boswellia carteri) to have calming and stabilizing affects.
For addressing agitation and combativeness, blends are generally more effective than single oils, with the exception of lavender which can sometimes be effective alone. Two to 4 drops of pure essential oil can be diffused into the patient’s room by a fan diffuser but I find that aromatherapy jewelry – or, alternatively, a cotton ball with a drop or two of essential oil pinned to the shirt- is generally more effective for addressing agitation. Hand massage using 2 or 3 drops of essential oil diluted in two teaspoons of vegetable oil is also a good alternative unless the patient is agitated by touch, as some patients with dementia are. Note: always exercise caution with patients who become agitated or aggressive – do not assume that an essential oil intervention will eliminate the behavior.
A suggested formula for addressing agitation and/or aggressiveness in patients with dementia:
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) 30%
- Marjoram (Origanum majorana) 20%
- Mandarin orange (Citrus reticulate) 10%
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) 15%
- Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) 25%
This blend is available from Artisan Aromatics as BE CALM. Online Shop
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