Essential Oils for Hospice Care & Their Caregivers
By Caryn Gehlmann
This month at e3 we’re focusing on caregivers in an effort to show our appreciation for all that they do. So we reached out to one of our customers, Ocean Sharp, Volunteer Director and Certified Aromatherapist, at Guardian Angel Hospice. She highly recommends using essential oils for hospice care.
You can read her interview below for tips on aromatherapy practice in hospice, as well as advice on how caregivers can take care of themselves.
Guardian Angel Hospice is located in Indiana. In addition to providing medical care and pain relief, they also offer emotional, spiritual, and personal support for patients and caregivers. With 15 years of experience in hospice care, we greatly appreciated Ocean’s insights on both caregiving and aromatherapy.
Which essential oils for hospice care do you find most helpful?
SO many! It’s good to start slow, so when we first began our aromatherapy program, it was just lavender and orange (separately) in some lotion and also lavender oil for baths and showers. We have progressed! I love those essential oils don’t get me wrong. I particularly love the peppermint and black pepper in our pain blend. I think the spikenard and bergamot in our anxiety blend is a game changer and I love the cardamom, ginger and black pepper in our nausea blend.
You mention various essential oil blends. Who creates those blends?
We (the owners of this company, our medical director and myself) spent almost a year getting our aromatherapy program the way we wanted it. We were intentional in the planning that went into it. We thought about every aspect, including the kinds of jars we would use and what symptoms we would target. I created essential oils blends for our program based on therapeutic uses as well as the energetics of the oil.
How have you discovered what’s most effective? Do you get feedback from patients, caregivers, and hospice volunteers?
We most definitely get feedback from patients and caregivers. We have had success with every blend! There are some that didn’t find them beneficial but there are many that love them! Back in November, we had a woman come home on hospice from a hospital with terrible nausea. The hospital had given her everything including an IV. When she got home and our staff was there to do the admission she was miserable. Our nurses carry an aromatherapy blend bag with all of our blends and our RN case manager asked her if she would try the essential oils for nausea blend. The result was immediate. The nurses love that they have alternative care that’s an immediate way to help with some of the symptoms we see on a daily basis.
Which essential oils are helpful to caregivers?
I could write a book! There are essential oils that can help them get a restful sleep (Sandalwood, Vetiver, Roman Chamomile, Lavender); oils that help them keep their energy up since caregiving can be tiring (Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit, Orange, Peppermint); and oils that help them relax (Ylang Ylang, Palmarosa, Bergamot, German Chamomile). Caregivers are an essential part of the hospice dynamic. We need our caregivers to provide the care to our patients. They are important too! We need them to take care of themselves.
When it comes to family caregivers, how do you encourage them to give essential oils a try?
We talk about our essential oil blends from the very first visit. So when our admissions nurse goes out, she brings it up. Then when the case manager makes his or her first visit they bring it up. Sometimes, when a family understands essential oils, they are receptive from the start. Other times, it may be that the family/patient needs to build a relationship with their nurse so they can better trust the suggestion of using our blends.
How can friends and family support caregivers?
Instead of saying, “Let me know if you need something,” offer the “something”. “Can I bring dinner for you on Tuesday? Can I sit with your Mom this week so you can get out of the house?” Oftentimes the caregiver may not know what they need. It is overwhelming dealing with someone with a terminal illness and at times we see that the caregiver is busy with all that goes into being a caregiver that they forget about what THEY need. Another way to support them is to offer encouragement. That can be a simple, “You amaze me! You are doing such a good job taking care of your dad.”
What about caregivers who are hospice staff/volunteers? Do you recommend they personally use essential oils?
Well, I recommend oils to everyone! You just need to do it the smart way and for our staff and volunteers, they have the benefit of asking a certified aromatherapist. I try to educate them and offer thoughts and suggestions on using oils when I can.
We really appreciated Ocean’s insights! Having worked with Guardian Angel Hospice for four years, I love their thoughtful approach to planning their aromatherapy program.
For over a decade, our staff of trained Clinical Aromatherapists and healthcare professionals has partnered with hospice organizations. We specialize in offering a personalized approach to selecting essential oils for hospice care, the development of policies and procedures, and training for your staff on safe, effective application methods. Our goal is to help you utilize aromatherapy as a safe, gentle and effective way to bring comfort to your patients and their families. Click here to learn more about hospice care or contact us to set-up an initial consultation.