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Aromatherapy in Care Homes & Hospices

We have integrated aromatherapy into various care homes and hospices provision, with many of our registrants being employed after volunteering. 

Fundraising for Yes to Life

‘Yes to Life’ raise awareness of complementary therapies that are currently unavailable on the NHS for cancer patients. There are huge numbers for whom mainstream approaches such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy are either not a viable option, or simply not one that they wish to pursue. For these people there are a wide range of complementary therapies that can be used alongside conventional treatment in an integrative approach; to support the immune system, to minimise side effects and protect organs from damage, to enhance the effectiveness of conventional treatment, and to increase overall wellbeing. The IFA donated £2,500.00 to Yes to Life to put towards an aromatherapy department, in which some of our registrant's have volunteered.

Featured: Supporting our Local Ealing Hospital

The Meadow House Hospice is a specialist palliative care service funded by the NHS at Ealing Hospital, delivering care to Ealing and Hounslow Boroughs. Their aim is to help each patient and their families to cope as well as possible with the effects of cancer, and for the patient to be cared for and die in the place of his or her choice. The hospice aims to affirm life and to regard dying as a normal process, provide relief from pain and other distressing symptoms and integrate the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care. The Hospice has responded to the increasing demand for complementary therapies as part of their patient care by developing and expanding its services. IFA volunteers gave treatments to the patients' families at pamper evenings held at the hospice and raised funds amounting to £2,315.00.

In the past we have worked with and supported hospices and other condition specific charities such as:

Volunteering in a hospice

Read Diane's Story

I approached a local day hospice in my nearest town in the hope that they would be interested in allowing me to volunteer as an aromatherapist. I very promptly received a phone call from the nurse manager who was very keen to meet with me to discuss my suitability.

I had done my research and was aware that this Lincolnshire Hospice supported patients and their families in many ways, one way being a range of complementary therapies including aromatherapy massage. I met with the nurse manager who looked at my CV and interviewed me.

This day hospice in my town had a warm and welcoming team of staff who clearly offered the comfort that the day patients needed. Many patients attended not just for the camaraderie and contact with others who understood what they were facing, but also for the practical support, treatments, counselling and social activities on offer.

There was a dedicated treatment room where many practitioners worked offering at that time aromatherapy, reflexology, Indian head massage and reiki.

The nurse manager explained that no patient would receive aromatherapy without the approval of their consultant. A thorough assessment would be made by the nurse manager to ensure that there were no contra-indications to treatment and the patient would sign a consent form prior to treatment. Whilst discussing the gentle massage strokes I would be offering she explained that certain areas would need to be avoided (cancer sites, areas of skin cancer, areas receiving radiotherapy) and that some patients may have an initial fear of being touched. We discussed the essential oil blends I would be using (a 1% blend of a combination of the following) if appropriate to the patient:

  • Frankincense: - may help with the fear of the unknown and emotional exhaustion; can slow down and deepen the breath producing a feeling of calm; can help with respiratory congestion.
  • Neroli : – may help those suffering from shock or panic attacks; can have anti -depressant effects; can act as a natural tranquillizer; often described as being able to reach deep down into the soul.
  • Rose Otto: - may have anti-depressant effects; sometimes described as being a tonic to the heart and refreshing to the soul; may soothe feelings such as anger, fear and anxiety; a harmonizing oil which can make sorrow easier.

Working in palliative care was a completely new experience for me but I had massaged relatives who were close to death and found it comforted them and seemed to enhance their emotional wellbeing. The involvement of the consultant and nurse manager was reassuring and helped to counteract any initial concerns I had. The nurse manager made it clear that I needed to prepare myself for the death of patients and to remember that a patient may deteriorate after treatment but that it was important that I didn’t feel it was necessarily to do with my intervention. She said I needed to ensure that I didn’t have unrealistic expectations of my treatment and to be aware that there may be days when a patient just can’t face the treatment and not to take it personally.

I was very honest with myself before approaching the hospice in the first place and was sure that I would be able to cope with this type of role.

By far the most important part of my role as a volunteer aromatherapist was building trust. It was important to sit and chat with the day patients while they had refreshments both before and after the treatments. I attended a morning or afternoon each week and was informed by the nurse manager who was suitable for treatment depending on their physical needs and mood on that day. I saw mostly women (just one man) although the men were happy to experience a hand massage in the lounge. The sessions were short, on average 15/20 minutes in duration. The shoulders, face and scalp, arms and lower legs were the areas most requested by those patients who did see me. Sometimes patients didn’t have the energy to undress or make their way to the aromatherapy room so I would offer hand and foot massages in the lounge instead.

The patients unanimously liked the smell of the blends – I was very careful not to assume that they would, as I was aware of the sensitivity of chemotherapy patients to smell. Occasionally they requested carrier oil only. Generally, patients described symptoms of fatigue, nausea and pain.

The feedback I had was that the massage promoted a sense of calmness and comfort. They felt a release of tension when the massage started. They said it was so nice to have positive touch rather than a medical procedure of poking and prodding. They also felt it was comforting to have their body touched as their body image had been compromised due to the condition and the consequent treatment. One patient said it was empowering to have choices again (rather than the treatment being directed by someone else, e.g. consultant). Most of the patients wanted to chat during the session but one or two did try to find a stillness in their minds. On a couple of occasions when we went back down to the communal lounge, after the treatment, patients fell asleep in the chair.

I would say by far the most important part of my role was developing relationships with patients so that they felt comfortable, safe and knew that they could trust me. I spent a few minutes in the car before entering the hospice grounding myself (with the help of Neroli) so that I had positive energy that I could transfer to the day patients. I also had to protect myself for those days when a candle was lit for someone who had died. This was not easy and took some adjusting to. On these days it was important to help the other patients deal with their sorrow and their own fears by simply listening, allowing for quiet reflection, or offering some kind of reassurance through the use of two very powerful tools – the essential oils and the power of touch.

Diane is now employed by the Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust.

  • Alzheimer's Society (awareness collaboration)
  • Bedfordshire Body Positive (bbpositive) (volunteer work and fundraising)
  • Brain Charity (awareness collaboration)
  • British Association of Skin Camouflage (awareness collaboration)
  • Bristol Royal Infirmary (Ward A528)(sponsored)
  • Cancer Research (fundraising)
  • Carer Network (awareness collaboration)
  • Carer's Trust (awareness collaboration)
  • Childrens Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) (volunteer work)
  • Daiba Koureisya Service Centre (funded the integration of aromatherapy service)
  • Downhurst Residential Centre (volunteer work)
  • Ealing Carers Trust (volunteer work)
  • EPDA (Parkinson's Europe) (awareness collaboration)
  • Fountain Centre (sponsored to improve the facilities available)
  • Galway Hospice Foundation (volunteer work)
  • Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust (volunteer work)
  • Meadow House Hospice (fundraised)
  • Mesothelioma Hope (awareness collaboration)
  • Mind (awareness collaboration)
  • Monty’s Corner (Childhood Cancer Support) (awareness collaboration)
  • Minato-ku Old People’s Home (volunteer work)
  • Mulberry Centre  (volunteer work)
  • National Children's Homes (sponsored)
  • National Eczema Society (awareness collaboration)
  • Open Age (awareness collaboration)
  • Pauls Cancer Support Centre (sponsored)
  • Po Leung Kuk, Hong kong Charity (funded the integration of aromatherapy service)
  • Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) (awareness collaboration)
  • Royal British Legion (sponsored)
  • Sompo Care Lavire Care Home (funded the integration of aromatherapy service)
  • St Michaels Hospice (volunteer work)
  • Sycamore Lodge CIDS Cognitive Impairement and Dementia Service (volunteer work)
  • The Children’s Hospital (volunteer work)
  • The Christie NHS Trust (volunteer work)
  • Threen House Residential Home (volunteer work)
  • White City Community Centre  (volunteer work)
  • Yes to Life (funded the integration of aromatherapy service)

Featured International care homes we've helped:

Providing Massage to 297 Elderly
(Hong Kong)

On 26th March 2018 at the Heung Yee Kuk Building, Shatin, Hong Kong, IFA members came together for a historic event which set a new Guinness World Record. This was achieved by giving 30-minute aromatic hand massages simultaneously to 297 elderly people, beating the previous world record of 250. All participants were recruited locally from hospices and care homes. To make this happen the IFA funded the materials and expenses of the event in excess of £5,000 and provided the volunteer therapists. This landmark in the IFA’s history is an amazing honour not only for the IFA but all our members who took part. It was a wonderful illustration of our members doing what they do best - helping, healing and supporting their local community. An incredible accomplishment and memorable day.

Daiba Koureisya Care Home

The Minatoku Daiba Koureisya Service Centre in Tokyo is an elderly people’s home to currently 35 residents. In September 2018 the IFA organised for a team of volunteers to visit the care home and integrate Aromacare. Fragrance inhalers were made and given to each resident and periodic hand massages provided. The IFA sponsored its volunteer therapists travel and equipment to provide massage treatments to the residents. This charity project spanned over six months. During this time the volunteers also taught the residents family members simple techniques to use with their loved ones and how to create artefacts using scents to communicate caring and understanding. The IFA provided essential oils, carrier oils and towels. The IFA donated £1,218.00 of its funds to the project.

Po Leung Kuk Charity
(Hong Kong)

The Po Leung Kuk is a well-known and historic charity established in Hong Kong in 1880. With the rapid aging of the population, the demand on services for the elderly has increased significantly over the past century. Since the 1980’s the charity has been focusing on the quality of life for the elderly and development of care homes. Its mission is to ‘serve our elderly with care, concern and counsel’. In March 2018 at the IFA’s Hong Kong Preventative Healthcare Conference the IFA raised 2000.00 HKD (£1,831.50) for the cause. The monies donated went towards staff training in Aromacare and the development for a multi-discipline approach to care, particularly focusing on those with dementia and chronic pain issues.

Sompo Care Lavire Care Home

The Sompo Care Lavire is a carer home in Kanagawa, Japan that wanted to introduce complementary therapies and aromatherapy into their programme of care. In September 2018 the IFA organised for a team of volunteers to visit the care home and integrate Aromacare. The IFA sponsored its volunteer therapists travel and equipment to provide massage treatments to the residents. This charity project spanned over six months. During this time the volunteers also taught the residents family members simple techniques to use with their loved ones and how to create artefacts using scents to communicate caring and understanding. The IFA provided essential oils, carrier oils, massage beds, diffusers, towels, cushions and herbs to create an herb garden for the residents to enjoy. The IFA donated £2,154.00 of its funds to the project.