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The IFA Aromacare Programme

Families across the UK are struggling to get the care they so desperately need. When there is no conventional treatment available to relieve symptoms or alleviate an illness, complementary care is often the only form of support people have. Essential oils have the potential to tap into the emotions, to heal and soothe the body and promote spiritual connection. Aromatherapy can help create an atmosphere where the recipient can feel cared for, physically relaxed, calm, restful and less anxious.

The IFA Aromacare Carer’s course is a practical, hands-on course, teaching learners about touch and massage. It communicates caring and understanding with the elderly and also children. It is also a means of stress relief for those who have prohibitive physical and mental conditions. It enables carers to add a new dimension to their care and provides a myriad of skills enabling the safely and effective application of essential oils for those who, for whatever reasons, are unable to tolerate a standard massage on a couch or the more invasive therapies. Carers will learn there is much that specific essential oils can do to support the path to rehabilitation and wellness and also as a means of self-care. Whether the person in your care is verbal or non-verbal, Aromacare conveys a new channel of communication by way of light touch, inhalation and creates a soothing and nurturing ambience.

What does the course cover?

This course will develop your interpersonal skills and enable you to work confidently with essential oils, apply light touch and massage through stories, create personalised aroma games and other soothing devices that will help reach the recipient in a new way. The course is taught over 5 days by an IFA Aromcare teacher. Aromacare practitioners spend 70 hours in the study of massage and are able to use 20 essential oils. They learn massage with a flat or gently curved hand and work on their arms, hands, legs, feet and shoulders and work on the back through clothing. Each participant will receive a copy of the IFA Aromacare manual to guide them throughout their studies and to be used as a point of reference for future use. Click here for the course outline.

How can it be applied to your situation?

Aromacare provides a core programme of experiences to address what is described as the “triad of impairments”, social communication, impaired imagination and high levels of anxiety. Attendees will be adults who care for vulnerable people, for example, children with additional needs or adults or elderly people who are particularly vulnerable due to age related or health conditions, such as dementia or physical incapacity. Your role as carer may be at a care centre or in the family home and what you produce during the course is completely personalised to your situation.

For example, creating an aromatic blend to be added to wellington boots to provide a foot bath for an elderly lady with dementia who gets agitated, especially when returning from the garden. For an autistic child creating play dough with added essential oils so they can squeeze it and inhale the oils when feeling anxious. The possibilities are endless.

Some dads attending the course too :)
The difference this course has made to mothers with autistic children, children with ADHD, teenagers with behavioural issues, abuse survivors who can’t bare to be touched and in palliative care has been truly astounding. The spectrum of lives it has touches continues to expand.

Angela Billington, Aromacare Practitioner

"and to those without it (aromacare), may not have experienced something so simple as just holding someone's hand"

January, a new year and the month of my birthday! Yay! A special day in our house. It's never a day off of course. Mine is a busy house and let's just say two of my four children are a little complex! Laura is the third of my four children. She is now 19 and was born with congenital birth defects including a cleft palate and a cranial defect which were both operated on when she was small. She has severe learning difficulties, is non-verbal and has autism. She is partially sighted and is photophobic as her irises didn't form properly. Her behaviour can be quite challenging to say the least and what she lacks in height she makes up for in personality! Once met never forgotten, my little ginger whirlwind who adores a back massage and the aroma of mandarin. Joe is my youngest. My platinum blonde gentle giant. He is 17, he has profound and multiple learning needs and severe epilepsy. He is wheelchair dependant and depends on me for everything apart from drinking which he does himself with a special cup! He loves a foot massage and a story massage too! He is non-verbal too, however this doesn't stop him letting me know his likes and dislikes. He is sensitive, mild mannered and loves sleep! There's an element of nerves when starting anything new. This, mixed with excitement, my love of meeting new people and, I'll admit, even a little bit of skepticism. With all of this, I embarked on and fell in love with Aromacare!

At the risk of quoting an 80's cult classic, when you care for someone with complex medical and learning needs, 'life moves pretty fast......' You really do have to stop, take stock, make time for yourself, recharge and never ever feel guilty for doing so. A glass half full family we try not to dwell on the more challenging days and move onwards with life making memories.... It's not just myself that has embraced the world of essential oils. Touch is a huge part of everyday life in my house now. My two non- verbal children have had to find other ways to communicate. Both are completely dependent on me for their daily cares. Strong aromas can affect their mood and the level of pressure when being held can be interpreted as pain if given too softly. Massage and oil blends have become part of our daily routine. They have their individual favourites - as do I. Aromacare has not only brought with it new skills and new friends, it has given me the opportunity to share my experiences and my new found knowledge with others. I would love to give back to my own community, to the IFA who funded my place on the course and to those who, without it, may not experience something so simple as just holding someone's hand. 

But don’t just take our word for it - read some testimonials from those who have taken the course:

I discovered that the majority of children that I worked with responded to aroma and very quickly made the link to the positive nurturing touch that would follow either in the form of massage stories to an aroma-sensory object to hold, smell, feel it, shake it and play with. Parents started requesting help to use these activities at home and reported positive changes in sleeping and eating patterns and a reduction in behaviour outbursts.” Stephanie Hynard

Hannah Ettrick
Mum with Autistic Children


My Aromatouch journey began in 2015 and quickly became a passion of mine. I was asked to join the course by Sheila during a meeting at a support group for parents of children with additional needs and I jumped at the chance!

I have 3 incredible children and a super supportive husband. Our 7 year old son, Rohan has autism and sensory processing disorder, his siblings are our 5 year old daughter, Hattie and baby Mac who is 6 months old. My husband, Michael is wonderful and we’ve been together for 9 years. I liked to think that I’d always had a natural and gentle approach to parenting and family life but Aromacare further opened my eyes to a wonderful way to grow with this.

Raising a young autism family is challenging! Aromacare is a wonderfully creative method of aromatherapy and week by week I saw improvements in my eldest son’s willingness to be involved. Small touches here and there, a few drops of lavender in his bath or a simple breathing pot to take to school to remind him of home. There have been times when I’ve longed to be allowed into his world and he’s now so comfortable seeing me administering Aromacare in our home that he joins in. I massage my baby son using a weak Lavender blend and my daughter loves massage so much that she practically strips naked every time she sees my oil case!

Aromacare has much improved my mental health and I’ve been using it as my ‘therapy’ for   years now. I’ve long suffered with anxiety but the satisfaction I feel knowing that what I can do with essential oils can impact our lives in such a positive way still amazes me. It’s so easy to get lost in essential oils.. Citrus oils (sweet orange, lemon & tangerine) are a firm favourite of my kids.

Many parents have said that taking part in the course was a big step for them but they are so glad that they had the courage to engage in Aromacare. It has helped so much within their families to make quality time, bond and support each other. There are mums who have found so much renewed confidence that they have continued with further education and some have returned to employment and are using their skills to nurture vulnerable people within their employment. Some mums have attended volunteer days with Sheila, massaging elderly people, forces veterans and at cancer care support events.

Aromacare in Knowsley has become a movement that I’m hugely proud to be part of. It’s been life changing for my family. I’m a much calmer and less stressed version of me and long may it continue. I’ve made so many friends and I’ve been able to share my skills with other parents in a similar situation to myself, offering up relaxing hand massages at Parent/Carer events and Macmillan coffee mornings. Even my 6 foot Scouse Dad has a Marjoram blend to help his blood pressure... he still calls me a hippy though!


Christina Loyden
Bluebell Park School Teacher

"Bluebell Park School, Kirkby provides an adaptive education for pupils aged 3-19 years old. We currently have 201 pupils on roll, providing early years foundation stage, primary, secondary and Post 16 provision for students with severe and complex learning needs and profound and multiple learning needs.

We rate well-being very highly on our agenda at Bluebell Park, for both pupils and colleagues. We feel very privileged to have experienced staff within our team who can deliver Aromacare to our pupils on a regular basis, thus creating a relaxing and calming environment through the use of essential oils, promoting both emotional and physical well-being. The benefit is evident by the change in body language presented by the pupils during these sessions, for example, even volatile pupils are happy, smiling and calm during this time. Some pupils who are intolerant to touch are accepting of appropriate contact.

We work in an extremely busy and lively environment meaning space can be problematic at times. In response to this we have been allocated a permanent hub, signifying the importance of Aromacare and the positive impact it has on our pupils.

Aromacare for our pupils helps to balance and maintain emotional well-being through the use of appropriate essential oils and artefacts. We find Lavender, Eucalyptus and Mandarin work really well. The use of an alternative space (particularly for our pupils) is fundamental to our success! In doing this it allows students to anticipate their change in environment, reducing anxiety and promoting tranquillity. The pupil’s new expectation is a safe space where they can experience calm and create inner peace. Designing this environment is achieved through the use of music, projection and scent and we like to keep this exclusively outside the normal classroom environment.

Aromatherapists in school co-ordinate a group session once a week, offering this on a half termly basis and this usually lasts between 6 and 8 weeks. Our mission is to provide as much coverage across the school as possible.

Further sessions within our timetable are dedicated to delivering 1:1 interventions (once a week) for identified students. These are carefully selected after giving consideration to the individual needs of the pupil. There can be a multitude of reasons for this including pupils who are unable to comprehend their own emotions. This could be a result of their condition or other contributing factors which can unsettle their daily routine."

Kelly Anne Floyd
Memory Lane (Dementia) Volunteer


I am a volunteer support worker at the Memory Lane Project. This is a social enterprise based in Halewood providing support to those experiencing dementia and their families. We are now providing our support at sessions in the Halewood and Huyton communities within Knowsley. We also continue to provide support to the families following the loss of their loved one. We aim to provide support, reassurance and care in the best way that we can. Our sessions are currently held over 4 hours on specific week days

Thanks to sponsorship support from the IFA I was nominated by Knowsley Council to receive Aromacare training. I am the first person at Memory Lane to join the course and already the impact on our group is significant.

At each venue we have created a sensory space in one section of our room. Our members who live with dementia are finding Aromacare very relaxing. I find that some members are becoming a little more chatty during massage. They are then often having a peaceful sleep afterwards. They are displaying happy, relaxed emotions and on arrival their faces will light up if I have my essential oils ready for a pamper session.

I use room sprays at Memory Lane too, Bergamot works very well. For massages I may use Mandarin and Marjoram for anxiety and soothing aches.

Whilst I am massaging a group member or they are simply relaxing in our sensory space, this allows their family member who is caring for them to have a break. That is so important for them, to know that they can have a little precious time, whilst their loved one is nearby, occupied, happy and safe. The carer may need anything from a coffee, a chat, perhaps to seek some advice from our support team. We sometimes provide tai chi and other activities so that carers can do something for their own health and well-being.

I also massage the carers when I can too. They are so appreciative of this little bit of nurture and support for them. They may wish to have a quiet relax or to share something that has happened. This can help me to think about the essential oils that they may need. They are dealing with such challenging and unusual situations and this can be worrying and isolating. A carer was recently troubled and tired because their relative with dementia had reorganised the whole kitchen during the night.

I loved my Aromacare course and I have learned so much, not only about essential oils and massage but about myself. I feel that I have become more confident and feel good about myself and very proud. I use oils to relax myself at home now. I enjoy Lavender and tea tree in a bath. I have a 9 year old daughter and she is enjoying the oils in a bath too. She is very interested in this new aspect to our home life. She is not used to massage yet and so we are starting very gradually on our new journey together.


Susan Hampson
Support Worker at Adult Disability Services


I am a support worker and transition leader in Knowlsey’s Adult Disability Services. Our day centre provision is across the Borough and supports adults with a range of additional needs, the elderly and those living with dementia. I was one of the first staff from my service area to be trained in Aromacare. I could immediately see why our manager, Barry Kelly, was so enthusiastic about introducing Aromacare and the possibilities for our service users and staff to benefit from this activity.

We now have staff trained across the Borough in Huyton, Halewood, Kirkby and Stockbridge Village. This has been helped hugely by the assistance of the IFA who have supported 4 of our carers to become practitioners. Aromacare is used on a very individual basis. The creation of a series of calming sensory rooms in our day centres has been integrated into our business plans. The soft lighting and furnishing with calming essential oils provides a relaxing private space. Being mindful of sensory sensitivity we have chosen natural earthy colours. One room has a lovely privacy screen showing a gentle beach scene.

Some people like to have a booked in spa-like session at their preferred time of day. One person who often feels stressed and ready for home towards the end of the day now receives aromatherapy during that last hour. This prevents her anxieties and she now loves that last hour and floats home relaxed.

Our service is committed to improving public health and our group of trained staff are constantly finding new ways to incorporate massage and essential oils. We use Aromacare to help the 24 hour posture management of wheelchair users. This includes foot and lower leg massage and this is integrated into their physiotherapy plans. During this harsh winter we have helped to prevent or ease cold symptoms using our eucalyptus and tea tree oils within our spaces.

We often use our oils and massage to help to keep coping mechanisms strong at times of transition. As an example, those service users with autism can feel overwhelmed when entering a slightly noisier activity or a higher volume of people. If they receive aromatherapy just prior to this we find that they can more readily make the transition and enjoy their next activity. If we meet new service users who already received Aromacare at school or other venue when they were younger, this will also help with their transition into adult services.

We have received praise for using Aromacare from the National Autistic Society for this person centred activity. They even took away examples of the documentation that we have developed since our training as an example of good practice to help other organisations. We record treatment plans, risk assessments, timetables, etc. This enables any of our team to be aware of individual preferences, possible behaviours, favourite artefacts and expected location allowing a flexible, safe and bespoke personal intervention. Our regular documenting helps us to monitor and develop each person’s programme and to be flexible within the team of trained staff.

Aromacare has helped us in our activity bases to deal with lots of upsets and situations, one being bereavement. Loss can affect a day centre from a number of angles. It may be the passing or leaving of a staff member or a personal loss affecting the family of a service user or staff member. We took some advice from our IFA teacher, Sheila and she designed a workshop for us on bereavement and special considerations and linked this to essential oils that can be helpful.

At sad times we now have more ideas on what we can do to help. This may be making a special product for someone who is sad, perhaps having a small ceremony or other activity for us all to acknowledge and to support each other. Frankincense, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Vetiver, Lavender and Geranium have all been helpful.

In addition to the tremendous impact our knowledge has made during the working day, myself and other staff use aromatherapy to help our own well-being and relaxation. Our families and friends benefit too. We are often called upon to massage, soothe sunburn, in fact, to offer comfort and support wherever we can.

Our teams across Knowsley are also hoping that we can use our Aromacare skills on various national awareness events, including Disability Awareness Day, Dementia Awareness Week and the World’s Largest Coffee Morning amongst other community projects.

We will continue to develop this fabulous activity."

Denise Savage
Children's Disabilities Staff Member at Sense UK

"My best course for years. I really enjoyed making the aroma artefacts, and involving the students to make something special that they could use. All the people in my case studies benefited from the treatments and activities. I enjoyed being creative and sharing new ideas. I’ve also learnt that essential oils can help me in my daily life by reducing stress and tension. Without thinking, I use breathing games with confidence with my team." Denise Savage, Sense UK Staff Member

Demi Dixon & Roxanne Mugumbi
Care Leads at Sense UK

"Working across the age range has been a learning experience. I found I could adapt my activities and achieve different outcomes. I added laughter for older people and used essential oils for calming younger children. Wonderful course" Demi Dixon

"Child Care staff and parents reported that several clients now were more relaxed, looked forward to hand massage or an aroma massage story at night and as a result slept much better. It’s been lovely to help my colleagues in this way." Roxanne Mugumbi


Children who struggle to make sense of the world and experienced high levels of anxiety just by participating in familiar day to day activities by introducing activities that involve gentle rocking, holding and stroking, some children produced an out-breath sigh of relaxation, with others i can feel their bodies start to relax under my touch. Some gave prolonged eye contact or smiled, others with language requested ‘more’ or placed my hand back on their body.” 

Need help and want to incorporate Aromacare?

Please do get in touch with us and tell us of your situation. In some special cases we can offer part funding for training care-leads and on a case-by-case basis.