Benefits of Aroma Therapy in Memory Care Communities

Aromatherapy is a term that is thrown around a lot lately with the growing popularity of essential oils and all-natural remedies, but the idea of aromatherapy goes back centuries. The Egyptians used aromatic oils for religious purposes and for their antibiotic properties, and Hippocrates was known to take aromatic baths for his health. The amazing thing about aromatherapy is that is has a subconscious effect on mood. It can relax, or it can help boost energy. It can be administered by using a diffuser, inhaling directly from a bottle or cloth, putting a few drops into a bath, or massaged into the skin with a carrier. Below are some benefits of aroma therapy in memory care:

Reduce Stress Levels

Anxiety and stress are sadly common emotions in residents with dementia. Oils such as Lavender, Rose, Ylang Ylang, and Chamomile help create a calming feeling. These are great to use in spas during bath time. Add a few drops to the warm bath water, or use a diffuser so the resident can smell the aroma right away upon entering the room. Giving hand massages with lavender hand lotion is also a nice relaxing activity.

Boost Energy

This is one we all could use! Most citrus oils like orange, lemon and grapefruit help increase alertness and motivation. I’ve heard of communities diffusing these during activities to help residents to become more engaged. Other suggested oils are Cinnamon, Peppermint, and Eucalyptus.

Increase Sleep Quality

Similar to the list of oils that help reduce stress, these help give you good quality sleep. I often will diffuse one of these in my bedroom when I find myself tossing and turning, or having issues staying asleep. A few drops could be diluted with water in a glass spray bottle and applied to a resident’s pillow or sheets. Again, a before-bed hand massage with scented lotion could also help them drift to sleep easier. Lavender, Bergamot, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang, and Cedarwood are suggested.

Over-all Cleanliness

One of the first things I notice upon entering a senior living community is the scent, and I especially notice this in the restrooms. Diffusing a citrus oil helps give a feeling of cleanliness and  freshness.

Some notes on safety:

No oil should be directly applied to skin due to its’ high concentration which could cause irritation. Most common ways to dilute are with carrier oils, water, or lotion. Also make sure residents do not have any known allergies to any oils you use topically.

Do not leave diffusers or essential oil bottles within reach of dementia residents. Again, due to their concentration, ingesting large quantities could be toxic or irritating.

Because of senior’s sensitivity, any recipes or solutions you find online should be modified to have less of the concentrated oil.


Rachael: One of the things I did at my first care community was to ensure that residents received a warm, scent-covered washcloth at mealtime. It was a great way to get people ready to eat!