Essential Oils and Elder Care

June 13, 2011 By: Allison Stillman Category: Aging With Grace and Glory, Mind Body Spirit

The last six months have provided an opportunity for me to work with a group of elderly residents in a convalescent care facility implementing essential oils to mitigate the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Having cared for an elderly Aunt for 7 years who suffered from advanced stages of Parkinson’s, I learned firsthand how valuable essential oils are for working with people with delusional states of reality, agitation, anxiety and depression. I had such success working with oils, and endeavored to create a six-month study with the hopes of introducing aromatherapy and the use of essential oils as a protocol to work with the other residents who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s dis-ease.

Having completed the six-months, we are now looking at the best methods in which to implement using the oils as a protocol as the results we experienced were so outstanding and exciting with every resident experiencing positive effects100% of the time.

Very soon into the study, I discovered, and received feedback from caregivers, that my aromatherapy class was the favorite hour of the week, andthe residents were so completely different on the day that I was there, the demand was to have more classes.

What I discovered through this study was just how impactful essential oils can be for many of the symptoms these folks suffer from. Most often, when I arrive the residents are somewhat depressed, lost, anxious and stressed. A couple of folks had no sense of smell whatsoever, and we discovered some very interesting things with them as well.

Upon my arrival, the very first thing that happens is that we massage a couple of drops of lavender essential oil, Lavandula officinalis, a lovely organic lavender from Bulgaria, onto the back of the neck along the spine, where it immediately begins to be absorbed into the epidermis and then into the dermis layer, where the nervous system is affected with the calming and relaxing properties of the lavender. Almost immediately the residents begin to relax, and get happy.

I then have them inhale the fragrance of the lavender which is left on the their hands from applying to the neck. They all love the fragrance, and even the 2 people who have lost their sense of smell, have a feeling when they inhale the fragrance. The reason for this is the fact that the olfactory system has an instantaneous effect on the emotional and behavior centers of the brain, found in the Paleo-mammalian portion of the brain.

I would say that overall, lavender is the number one favorite amongst everyone at the care center, the elders and the staff, and would be the number one oil I would most recommend for use.

The next oil would be rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, a widely available essential oil that has been known for many years as an oil to enhance memory. We put a few drops on a fragrance strip and then inhale deeply, for many breaths, and everyone notices how much more alert they become when inhaling the oil. The rosemary makes all of them perk up, become more alert and awake. Often times, the long-term memory is affected as well, and many of the residents experience an old memory coming to the forefront. I have also witnessed this same affect while teaching workshops, where participants have inhaled an oil and the amygdala, which stores the long-term memory, is awakened. The long-term memory is only affected through the sense of smell, and inhalation of essential oils often trigger release of a memory through the inhalation of a specific oil.

Rosemary has also been studied and found to have a dramatic impact on our ability to remember and retain information for later recall. This is a powerful tool to deal with declining memory from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

And last but not least, the essential oil of sweet orange, Citrus sinensis is one of the top oils used for its anti-depressant properties. Again, we have been using a few drops on the fragrance strip and inhaling. This oil always brings a smile to the face, and lifts the spirits. Orange oil can be somewhat caustic to the skin, so should not be applied undiluted to the skin, but works well in a diffuser to bring a feeling of joy to a room. Combined with lavender will bring relaxing and joyous qualities to an environment.

While the use of essential oils can help to mitigate the affects of both dementia and Alzheimer’s’ it is by no means a cure to either of these all too common ailments in our elders. However, the use of essential oils can help bring calming, grounding and happiness to their journey through these challenges to their health, and can also provide a very calming environment for all the caregivers who attend family and loved ones who are afflicted with these challenges.


Bio for Allison Stillman

Allison Stillman is a renowned aromatic alchemist, author and an expert on the historical use of essential oils in religious and spiritual ceremonies. Her book, The Sacred Art of Anointing is a result of her 30 years of research and practical experience with essential oils and anointing, and has been added to the Harvard Divinity School Library. She is featured in the books, “Love for No Reason” “More Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Soul”, and “Insights from the Coffehouse”. To find out more: or visit her on Facebook,



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