Using aromatherapy for the elderly can be incredibly rewarding for both the giver and the recipient. As part of my degree in complementary therapy with a focus on aromatherapy, I did part of the clinical training in a Care Home for the elderly. It was one of the best experiences of my training. It was amazing how little aromatherapy treatment gave incredibly pleasing results for people.
The key to remember using aromatherapy for the elderly is that you only need a much smaller quantity of essential oil in the carrier oil. I mainly used a 1% dilution of essential oils, so that would be 1 drop in 5ml, 2 drops in 10ml of carrier/vegetable oil. I took a small range of oils with me depending on the clients I was working with. This allowed my client to choose the oil by the scent that they preferred. It is best not to offer so many that it is confusing – sometimes a choice between only two essential oils was perfect.
The essential oils that I used most were lavender, sweet orange, mandarin, roman chamomile and rose otto. For the rose otto, the 5% dilution in jojoba, is a very useful oil. It gives a wonderfully ready diluted oil, that can be diluted further easily in more jojoba, or another carrier oil. The lavender and the sweet orange were the most popular choices with both women and men in the client group I worked with. All these essential oils are soothing, calming and nurturing.
For carrier oils I enjoyed using jojoba, but also used calendula macerated in sunflower oil, sweet almond, rosehip. If you have a good quality olive oil in the cupboard, that would also work well as a carrier.
For everyone I worked with, a hand massage was an acceptable treatment. It has the additional benefit that little disturbance is needed to carry it out and no clothes need to be removed. One or two clients were incredibly frail or bedridden, and this was still a treatment that was possible. I found that some slightly agitated clients, with dementia/alzheimers, responded well, sometimes even drifting off during the treatment.
If you have an elderly relative or friend, and you feel that they would be open to a hand massage, it is a excellent way to gently connect with someone and bring a little calm, and enjoyment. It can be done with some gentle music in the background in silence, or with some quiet chatting – every person is different. I realised that many clients in the Care Home had a lack of touch in their daily life, other than on a medical basis. You do not need special training to gently massage hands, but there are certainly courses out there that could help you if you felt that you would like to learn more about aromatherapy. The S.E.E.D Institute and the Edinburgh School of Holistic Aromatherapy are two organisations that I can recommend.
A couple of very simple blends that may be helpful. Jojoba carrier oil 5ml 1 drop lavender. Calendula macerate in sunflower oil plus 1 drop sweet orange. If you want to add more than one oil to the blend – make a larger quatity ie 10ml calendula macerated in sunflower, 1 drop roman chamomile, 1 drop rose otto in 5% dilution jojoba. Place the larger quantity blends in a lidded bottle and store it in a cool dark place. Don not use after a years storage, make a fresh blend. Sweet almond is also a great carrier to use, but check on any nut allergies in yourself or your elderly relative. One other blend could be 5ml rosehip, 5ml calendula in sunflower oil, 1 drop lavender, 1 drop roman chamomile – very soothing and helpful for agitation, promoting sleep.
I hope that this gives you confidence to use aromatherapy for the elderly folk in your life. It will be something that can bring everyone great rewards.
If you have concerns on medications or medical conditions, always check with the GP or a qualified aromatherapist. For any specific aromatherapy questions contact a fully qualified clinical aromatherapist.