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Integrating Essential Oils to Reduce Antipsychotics and other Medications

If you could reduce the use of prescription medications in your facility, or even offer a combination of healing practices to residents, would you give it a shot? No pun intended.

Essential oils have been used for centuries to aid in relaxation, pain relief, and even to cure sickness. And now, we’re seeing oils being used to naturally treat nursing home residents.

AANAC member, Debbie Salyer, RAC-CT, shares that her facility is beginning to dabble in the use of essential oils to help residents holistically. She recently posted a question to her peers through AANAC’s members-only online community, AANAConnect. Her goal was to see how others are using essential oils with residents and to develop a formal policy for use. “We have to come up with something to replace the meds,” shares Debbie. Debbie’s facility has been successfully using essential oils on residents to cure a multitude of ailments:

  • Peppermint for digestive and stomach troubles
  • Lavender for agitation, anxiety, stress, and pain
  • Melaleuca for skin irritation and pain
  • Wild orange diffused for aromatherapy

While Debbie says they are just experimenting, their small efforts have had a huge payoff. “We’ve included essential oils into our pain care plans. We’ve actually seen a reduction in anxiety, particularly with our residents with dementia.” The oils—sometimes coupled with a warm rice bag and a few minutes of massage—have greatly helped residents with behavioral issues and pain. “They have a better quality of life, and if you can do that without medication, why not?”

Another AANAC member, Kay Hoesing, RN, RAC-CT, has been trained on the use of aromatherapy for resident care. She says, “Our administrator is cutting-edge and always looking to try something new.” Kay’s facility treats about 26% of their residents with a nighttime oil treatment. “We had a woman who would be awake all night long and was very vocal. We tried different things to help her to sleep, but none of them seemed to work. The aromatherapy finally worked for her.” Kay explains that the facility purchased the essential oils and they have been using them to help with insomnia (lavender, bergamot, mandarin), indigestion and nausea (ginger), anxiety (lavender, spearmint, bergamot), headaches and colds (spearmint). Because they have seen such great success, they’re now presenting at the Quality Improvement training for other facilities in the region this Spring and will be teaching them how to use the oils on residents.

The use of essential oils is being documented in the care plan as integrative therapy. Kay hopes their facility can begin to expand the use of oils to more of a PRN-basis rather than mostly scheduled times so residents can enjoy the benefits of essential oils as problems arise rather than solely used to treat chronic conditions. “We have definitely seen a reduction in the amount of medication we give the residents after incorporating oils into their plans,” she says.

Inspired to heal holistically? Here are a few ways Debbie and Kay began to incorporate the use of essential oils:

  • Dilute in water and spritz on linens
  • Diffuse in common areas
  • Dab onto a cotton ball or tissue and place in the pocket of a resident or pin to their shirt/headboard
  • Dilute in fractioned coconut oil to apply topically
  • Add to lotion during a massage

If you are already using essential oils in your facility or would like to learn more, join the conversation and add to the discussion in our AANAConnect community. Not yet a member? Join today.

Reviewed March 6, 2020