Faith and Hope Hospice in Los Angeles county encourages the use of aromatherapy as part of a holistic approach to care. Aromatherapy is an ancient art that uses fragrances to provide comfort, reduce stress, and improve sleep. Aromatherapy is often used as a complementary therapy, and many hospice and palliative care patients find these helpful in managing symptoms. People who are grieving can make use of them as well.
Grief and life limiting illnesses often bring overwhelming emotions, difficulty sleeping, and loads of stress. Aromatherapy has been found to be helpful in addressing all of these. Lavender is one of the most well-known of all the fragrances used in aroma-therapy. It is great for reducing stress and helping with sleep, but there are literally hundreds of other options when choosing what fragrances to use.
Aromatherapy comes in many forms. Essential oils are used most often. These highly concentrated oils are derived from plants and are used through three main methods: inhalation, topical, and diffusion. Scents can be inhaled by applying a few drops of essential oil to a cloth or tissue which is then held at the nose. Topical applications are made by adding essential oils to lotions or other “carrier” oils which are then rubbed onto the skin. Diffusers use thin wooden reeds to absorb and redistribute oils into the air. Sometimes, diffusers use the heat of a candle and others are electronic. Oils can also be used in a spray bottle. Aromas can also be obtained from scented candles, cooking, and heating aromatics in a sauce pan with water. In fact, the scent of apple pie, freshly baked bread or cookies, can bring a sense of comfort and safety. Other fragrances, like a loved-one’s perfume or favorite meal can make them feel close.
There is mixed scientific research supporting the use of aromatherapy in clinical applications. The general consensus is that more research needs to be done. However, most studies suggest that there is some benefit with few risks or side-effects. The main risks include allergic reaction, infections (from applying oils to cut or broken skin), and risk of fire when using candles or other heat-generating devices. Generally, aromatherapy is worth trying at least once.
Below are a few resources with more information about aromatherapy, how & why it works, and guidance on what essential oils or fragrances might be a good fit for you. There is a lot of information about aromatherapy online, but a lot is from unreliable sources. I’m only including resources from trusted organizations and qualified professionals.
Also, People receiving palliative care in Los Angeles are lucky too, as there are many practitioners certified in aromatherapy and shops to buy essential oils. There are actually too many to list. I recommend searching Yelp for “aromatherapist” or “essential oils” and include your city or zip code. That will give you locations near you along with reviews.