Background: Depression, one of the most common behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia in seniors, adversely affects life quality of both patients and caregivers. Because many antipsychotic drugs can cause severe side effects in patients with dementia, there is a need for effective noninvasive treatments for depression in these patients. This study compared the effect of aroma-acupoint therapy and aromatherapy on depression in DSMIV diagnosed senior dementia patients with Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)-assessed severe cognitive impairment living in long-term care facilities.
Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: aroma-acupoint therapy (n=56), aromatherapy (n=73), and control (n=57). Outcomes were measured using the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia (CSDD) for changes in depressive mood and MMSE for changes in cognitive status in pre-test, post-test, and post-three-week test, and blood pressure and pulse rate, physical indicators of stress, measured daily during the four-week intervention.
Results: The aroma-acupoint therapy and aromatherapy groups were found to have significant improvement in depressive mood in the post-test and post-three-week test, but no significant change in cognitive function. During the four-week intervention period, the two study groups also had significant weekly improvements in blood pressure and pulse rate.
Conclusion: Aroma-acupoint therapy and aromatherapy can effectively improve depression as well as the physical indicators of relaxation, blood pressure and pulse rate, but not cognitive status in seniors with dementia and severe cognitive impairment. Future studies with larger populations are needed further develop optimal regimens using aroma-acupoint therapy and aromatherapy to treat depression in this population.