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Palliative and Elderly Care Using Aromatherapy

Posted by Lauren at 08:22 on 7 Feb 2019

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Oona'O Haynes, clinical aromatherapist, herbalist and NHC staff member, works with the elderly, offering holistic palliative care. She utilizes her training in aromatherapy to gently and non-invasively ease the challenges that the elderly and terminally ill often face and from her own experience offers the following insights:

Appetite Stimulation

The elderly commonly lose their appetite. Nutritional compromise, skin breakdown, and eventually death are a result. Conventional drugs often have many side effects and take a week or more to work. Chemical drugs are regularly given product licenses although exact mechanisms for them are not understood and, according to the American Office of Technology Assessment, 75% of all currently available treatments have not had sufficient scientific scrutiny. Inserting a feeding tube depletes the patient's quality of life and is invasive. Aromatherapy, with indirect inhalation and/or topical application, has proven to be effective in promoting patients' appetites, often within 24 hours. Meals monitored by staff show an increase of food intake from zero percent the first day to 25% by the third day and up to 75% and more by the 7th to 10th day. These are measureable, effective outcomes without harmful side effects.

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Pain Management

Aromatherapy is being used successfully for pain management, especially with the geriatric population. Patients who are experiencing high levels of pain (often after hip, knee, or back surgery) have a hard time participating in their daily rehabilitation regime. Direct application and application adjacent to the pain site(s) at designated times of the day and night have resulted in a definite decline in the perception of pain and an increase in comfort level. Patients on various narcotics and pain patches have stated they had "some" relief but felt "better" overall, after the aromatherapy treatment. The patient is able to respond better to the rehabilitative process and has a speedier recovery.

Alzheimer's Patients

Aromatherapy with direct and indirect inhalation has decreased anxiety, agitation and "sundowner" symptoms. This improves the quality of life for the patient who, as a result of aromatherapy, is more relaxed and less stressed. The patient wanders less, is more prone to be redirected easily by staff and less likely to incur a fall, which can result in serious injury. Traditional drugs for Alzheimer's often have side effects such as dizziness.

Registrants, please log into the IFA member’s area for patient data outcomes and research trials in palliative care and for members of the public please use one of the following tools found under ‘research’ to resource trials in palliative care.