This article was contributed by Andrea Cooperstein, M. Ed. On Wednesday, April 24th, Care Alternatives Hospice of MA presented a Continuing Education program on Aromatherapy to the staff at the Caregiver Homes North Shore office. It was presented by clinicians Cooperstein and Rev. Nicholas J. Ciccone, Jr., Ph.D., Chaplain.

Aromatherapy is often an overlooked treatment when caring for someone with a life-limiting illness, but it can be a powerful tool to bring peace and comfort to both the consumer and caregiver. In my experience, I have seen the emotional and physical benefits of integrating alternative therapies, like aromatherapy, with traditional medical treatments into the hospice care plan.

This alternative therapy has been around as far back as 7000 BC. There are references to the use of aromatherapy used in religious ceremonies and as medicines. The Egyptians used aromatic cedar oil for embalming; and Cleopatra was reported as having used aromatherapy to make custom-blended perfumes.

Our sense of smell is tied to our memory and emotions. Aromatherapy can evoke good memories and have positive physiological responses. I have seen patients who were agitated and unable to express themselves become calm and restful when aromatherapy oils were used. It can help control pain, stress, and anxiety. For some people, simply smelling cinnamon can take you back to the memory of home-baked apple pies and gathering with family and friends for the holidays.

All of our clinicians at Care Alternatives Hospice of MA are trained in using oils and gentle massage as part of their care. Our focus is on the mind, body and spirit. We offer this training to the families and caregivers as well. This therapy gives them a way to connect with a loved one with whom they may not otherwise be able to communicate with. Other practical uses of aromatherapy can include scented bath water, room sprays and the use of candles. Many of products used today are scented. Who doesn't like the "lemon-fresh" smell of a clean room or a "cotton-clean" scent of crisp bed sheets? At the end of the day, many people relax with the calming smell of lavender on their pillow.

Creating a calm, stress-free environment is especially important during this time in your loved one's care. Aromatherapy could be a treatment that helps you achieve this.