From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Expert Advice: Geriatric Massage,” by Sharon Puszko, in the March 2010 issue. Article summary: In the midst of these grim truths about Alzheimer’s disease, something to look forward to is the emergence of massage therapy as a technique for managing irritability and anxiety for those living with it. Massage can serve as a lifeline to a once-familiar world, while all other senses start to disappear.

by Kimberly Powers

People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have experienced vast improvement with the use of essential oils. Some oils are used individually, while there are blends formulated to support specific needs, such as relaxation during the waking hours, anxiety, mind stimulation, sleep support and appetite stimulation. The task of taking care of people who suffer from these diseases is very challenging, and aromatherapy has also shown to be helpful for caregivers and family members.

Jackie Farnell, owner of Scentsible Solutions, created aromatherapy blends and protocols for Alzheimer’s patients that are used in more than 450 nursing facilities. Studies with these blends showed overall improvement in the quality of life of patients, reduction in medications and improved attendance of caregivers.

One of Farnell’s blends, Restore Peace (containing frankincense and grapefruit), was used for a woman who screamed nonstop, unless she was asleep. After one week of use, her screaming decreased by 50 percent and completely subsided by the end of week two. The patient was eventually taken off her anti-psychotic medication and was able to move out of the dementia unit.

Donna Whyte-English, owner of Holistic Aromatics, relates how one patient became mean while being bathed, dressed or redirected, but with inhalation of lemon balm essential oil, there was an immediate mood change to one of peacefulness and cooperation. Another patient found this same aroma intolerable, but loved those of orange, lemon, frankincense, vetiver and may chang, and when inhaling them was no longer combative.

Other aspects of Alzheimer’s patient care that have been successfully addressed with essential oils include memory enhancement, pain and constipation relief, infection control (via reduced transmission/prevention of bacterial and viral illnesses), wound care (including MRSA), palliative care, and stress reduction and enhanced well-being of residents, facility staff and home caregivers.

Kimberly Powers is an herbalist and aromatherapist at Mosaic Natural Health Clinic in Seattle, Washington. She also teaches classes to show others how plants can help on their path of healing. She graduated from Bastyr University with a degree in herbal sciences and has incorporated this knowledge into the herbal and essential oil consulting she has done for more than 16 years. Learn more about her at