Problems with sleeping or late evening agitation are often a stage in dementia that eventually passes. Many people with dementia sleep more during the latter stages of the condition. Sleep problems are among the most difficult symptoms of dementia. Families and caregivers must be able to get adequate sleep themselves. Try to ensure regular periods of rest and regular breaks for yourself, as well as for PlwD.
Alternative Therapies benefit both the PlwD and their care partner:
- Exercise, Grounding and Balance
- Essential oils that calm, promote sleep, alleviate pain and bring balance back into the daily / nighttime routines are natural and effective.
- Music / Sound Therapy work with specific frequencies that affect brain function and can promote sleep.
- Try to make sure you both are getting enough exercise. Try taking one or two walks each day. If the PlwD is not independently mobile and confined to a wheelchair, by all means just getting them out into fresh air helps to ease and relax mind and body.
- Find a place where there is grass and each day, preferably morning and late afternoon, go to this place and take off your shoes…yep yours and theirs! Allow the bare feet to sit on the grass or dirt. Walk around if you can. The earth resonates at a frequency that is highly beneficial to the body helping to ground and balance the body’s systems. This action impacts the sense of touch, sight and smell. The smell of fresh mown grass, rain, flowers and even dirt, to many, can be relaxing and grounding. Connecting to nature is very beneficial.
- Review the article on my blog regarding Touch Therapy / Massage Therapy for pictorial information on hand massages and determine what you want to accomplish.
- For sleep, use these techniques in the evenings or prior to an afternoon nap.
- To improve energy and focus, use them in the mornings or mid day depending on what you want to accomplish.
- Consider scheduling a hand massage in the morning before an outside jaunt or just before an afternoon nap and most definitely in the evenings before bedtime.
- Try a back rub before bed or during wakeful periods. Using this as a preventative measure helps to reset the body’s clock and get sleep patterns back on track.
Please NOTE: Not all essential oils are alike and most purchased in stores contain chemicals that can be detrimental to topical applications and cannot be ingested. ALWAYS check the labels. Look for Nutritional Information on the label. The Essential Oils I have recommended here are safe, effective and are Certified Therapeutic Grade. Most are ingestible; use them for teas or for cooking. To read more about these oils, please click here.
If you have ANY questions about the safety or efficacy of these oils, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you are asking for information, please include as many details about what you are seeking information for. The more I have to work with, the better the information I can give you. Also, remember to please include your email address.
The following Essential Oils can be used topically (hand or foot massage) and Aromatically (in a diffuser). Diffusing provides greater coverage and at night will help to induce longer periods of sleep.
If using topically, always use a carrier oil. I recommend Fractionated Coconut Oil in a ratio of 5 drops carrier oil to 3 drops Essential Oil, unless otherwise noted.
- Lavender will calm but may also relax so much that you may want to relegate it to nighttime or nap times, to promote deeper sleep.
- Balance is excellent for daytime use and will promote improved physical balance as well as mental balance
- AromaTouch is an exceptional oil blend that is a mild relaxer but also aids in eliminating pain. This can be used in the daytime and at night as an analgesic in place of aspirin, ibuprofen, Motrin and Tylenol. Side Note for Parkinson’s sufferers: Mix 3 drops Aroma Touch to 5 drops Fractionated Coconut Oil and spread down the spine starting at the base of the neck down to the tail bone. I have seen up to 8 hours relief from tremors.
- Serenity promotes deep relaxing sleep and is my absolute favorite for nighttime use.
- Lemongrass. Fresh lemon grass is often added to teas or lemonade to promote relaxation and calmness. The scent can relieve anxiety and promote restful sleep among PlwD. Try diffusing it with other citrus scents like sweet orange to boost your loved one’s energy levels and mood.
- Clary Sage is beneficial for PlwD. Added to a diffuser, it promotes better cognitive function and enhances mood. Blend it with other essential oils like Peppermint and/or Rosemary to create an herb-based scent that boosts memory and promotes a calmer, more optimistic mood.
- Bergamot is a warm floral scent that reduces anxiety and stress and encourages a calmer, more relaxed mood. The flowers are often added to tea, including classic Earl Grey blends. Add one to three drops of the essential oil to the bath, a diffuser, or combine with an ounce of carrier oil to provide the soothing benefits.
- Chamomile. Dried chamomile flowers are well known for their pain relieving and stress reducing properties. Add a few drops of chamomile essential oil to 5 drops of carrier oil, and use the blend for hand massages to enjoy the same calming benefits.
- YlangYlang reduces anxiety, boosts mood, and promotes restful sleep, making it an excellent addition to your loved one’s bedtime routine. Use it in a diffuser immediately before bed to help your loved one fall asleep easily. If they are agitated, a short hand massage with ylang ylang essential oil in a carrier oil base can calm their mood.
- Rosemary has been found to stimulate memory, making it one of the best essential oils to incorporate into a PlwD's aromatherapy blends. Combine with peppermint to stimulate cognitive function and increase energy, or blend with lavender to calm.
- Peppermint is an invigorating scent that boosts cognitive function while encouraging feelings of calmness. Diffuse it in the morning to begin the day with relaxed energy, or diffuse it anytime a PlwD begins to feel tired or agitated.
Deal with the anxiety: Anxiety inevitably accompanies pain regardless of the type and relieving the anxiety first is half the battle.
Deal with the pain: Find out where it is and if it is Joint, Nerve, Muscle or Bone Pain. Use the following combination of Essential Oils based on what is needed.
PAIN RUB: (Joint / Nerve / Muscle)
- Mix 3 drops Fractionated Coconut Oil with 1 drop AromaTouch in the palm of your hand and rub gently on the affected area.
- Next, put 2 drops Serenity into the palm of your hand and rub over the affected area layering on top of the Aroma Touch.
- (Additional carrier oil is not needed with the second layer unless the skin is exceptionally dry and it quickly absorbed the first layer.)
- A great addition to any medicine cabinet is a pre-mix roller ball called ‘Past Tense.”Originally designed to relieve headaches and neck and head tension (which is does), I have found this particular Essential Oil blend to be HIGHLY effective on joint, nerve and bone pains. Just roll on the affected area and gently rub in!
- Mix 3 drops carrier oil with 3 drops Lavender and 3 drops Peppermint. Rub on affected area
- Soothing high frequency music (these can be downloaded free from You Tube) ie:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc94ZofWHBM ***
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17RB5oq_yAY ***
IN CLOSING: The goal is to establish a familiar daily routine that will aid in emotional and physical comfort and when the routine is disrupted for any reason, any negative emotional and physical response will be minor and limited. The use of Essential Oils and Music as two primary Alternative solutions WILL provide balance, structure, and enhanced emotional, mental, physical and spiritual comfort.
Only the last part of Regina's article is here. Do go to her blog, Alternative Therapies for Dementia. and read the what you missed!
For more information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia
Helen and James Whitworth and Regina Hucks are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.