Many elderly individuals receive little or no caring touch from others. Introducing massage and aromatherapy to this client group can improve the quality of life for both the client and those caring for them. The treatment can pass on feelings of comfort,security and safety. Using specifically chosen aromatherapy oils can enhance this giving deeper relaxation and assisting in insomnia, depression, confusion and anxiety.
Research into this area of work has been developing over recent decades. In the 1980s massage and later aromatherapy were introduced onto an elderly care ward at Churchill Hospital in Oxford. It was noted that patient's skin texture improved and tissue damage was reduced. The introduction of aromatherapy led to a reduction in sedative medication in the ward ( Price L, Price S (1999) Aromatherapy for health professionals.Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh).
Ballard et al (2002) studied the use of Melissa for elderly people with severe dementia and agitation. 72 people were randomly assigned to the aromatherapy group. They recieved massage with a base oil and melissa while the control group had base oil alone. The massage was performed twice daily on the faces and arms. This was continued for four weeks. The results were positive: sixty percent of the Melissa group experienced a significant improvement in their agitation scores following treatment compared to 14% of the non melissa group. No negative side effects were noted.
The authors concluded that aromatherapy with melissa was safe and effective for individuals with severe dementia and clinically significant agitation. The study group was small and more research is needed before a treatment protocol could be developed but there is strong support for the use of this pleasant non invasive therapy. ( Ballard CG, et al. Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with melissa.The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. July 2002, Vol. 63 (7), pp 553-8. Caddy R 1997 Essential oils in colour.Amberwood Publishing Ltd, East Horsley)
Melissa oil has a sweet, fresh and citrus-like smell and is pale yellow in colour. Melissa oil is extracted from Melissa officinalis is also known as lemon balm.This plant from the Mediterranean region and has small serrated slightly hairy leaves and small white-pink flowers.The flowers are very attractive to bees; the name 'Melissa' is the Greek word for honeybee. In the 14th century it was included in tonic water made by the French Carmelite nuns and Paracelsus (1493 - 1541) called this herb 'The Elixir of life' while John Evelyn (1620 -1706) described it as "sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory, and powerfully chasing away melancholy".
Aromatherapy has been shown to be effective for other conditions experienced by older people such as insomnia, aches and pains and constipation. More research summaries into these areas will be explored in future posts.