A survey of aromatherapy practices in aged care facilities in northern NSW, Australia

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Publication details

Bowles, JE, Cheras, PA, Stevens, J & Myers, SP 2005, 'A survey of aromatherapy practices in aged care facilities in northern NSW, Australia', International Journal of Aromatherapy, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 42-50.

International Journal of Aromatherapy home page available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/09624562

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Directors of care and aromatherapy care planners from 28 residential aged care facilities were surveyed about their practices and perceptions of aromatherapy in their facility. A total of 1032 (59%) residents in these facilities received aromatherapy, with 47% receiving daily treatments. The treatments were applied by assistants in nursing in most facilities, with activities officers and registered nurses also applying the treatments. The one essential oil used by all facilities was lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) followed by most facilities using tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and bergamot (Citrus bergamia). Commercial blends were used by 15/28 facilities. The choice of individual essential oils and blends suggests that aromatherapy is considered effective for both behavioural/psychological symptoms and physical ailments like arthritic pain. Nearly all facilities used foot baths and hand, foot, limb and neck-and-shoulders massage. The average monthly cost of materials per person was AUD 4.50. Directors of care also perceived that aromatherapy moderately reduces the amount of pharmaceuticals used. The main types of pharmaceuticals perceived to be reduced by aromatherapy were sedatives and analgesics. Considering all these findings, it appears as though aromatherapy is being used extensively in aged care facilities to manage symptoms of dementia and age-related physical discomfort. It is clear from this survey however, that further research is required to determine a ‘best practice’ for aromatherapy in dementia and aged care.

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