Using Essential Oils to Ease Headache Pain

Spring 2019 Willow & Sage by Stamptington

Headaches fall into four categories-migraine, tension, sinus, or sugar and each category can be treated with essential oils to ease the pain. A migraine is often caused by insomnia, stress, anxiety, or hormonal changes, while a tension headache usually comes from stress or strain. A sinus headache occurs when the nasal passages become clogged and cause pressure to build up within your sinuses, and a sugar headache stems from low blood sugar levels. Here are a few tips for treating each type with essential oils.

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Rub lavender or peppermint essential oil on your temples and back of the neck to relieve pain and nausea.


Rub eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil on your temple, forehead, and wrists. Or draw a warm bath and add 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil before soaking 10-20 minutes. Make sure to get in slowly and drink plenty of water afterward.


Rub eucalyptus essential oil on your temples, chest, and nose to help open up nasal airways.


Mix equal drops of lavender essential oil, rosemary essential oil, and coconut oil, and rub on your temples, forehead, and back of the neck.

Essential Oil Benefits 

Peppermint: Cooling effect, inhibits muscle contractions, and stimulates blood flow.

Rosemary:  Improves alertness, stimulates blood flow, and soothes nausea

Lavender:   Relieves tension, treats neurological conditions and helps regulate sleep.

Eucalyptus:. Helps remove toxins, opens nasal passages, and promotes emotional balance.


Make sure to test out the oil on a small patch of skin before using it.

For sensitive areas such as the face, dilute the oil first with a carrier oil.

Mind going a million miles a minute? Slow down with this breathing exercise


May 26, 2020 / Judson Brewer MD, PhD

When you’re anxious, one of the best things you can do is slow down and focus on your breath. But what can you do when you’re so anxious or worried that this doesn’t work or simply feels impossible to do?

Below, I’ll share a simple but effective trick that brings in more of your senses and helps cut through the anxiety so you can access more calm and focus.

But first, a quick look at the science behind worry and anxiety. 

There’s a part of your prefrontal cortex — the thinking and planning part of your brain — that is called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or dlPFC for short. It is toward the front and side of your brain. The dlPFC has been shown to be important for working memory; basically, it holds information for you to use right now. You rely on it when someone tells you a phone number and you repeat it to yourself as you prepare to dial, or when you take mental note of the items you need to pick up at the grocery store in the next few minutes.

If you’re really worried about something, that worry thinking takes up space in your working memory. You can compare your dlPFC to the RAM of your computer. If your computer has a lot of RAM, you can run a bunch of programs at the same time. If it doesn’t have that much, it gets slower as you use up the space, signaled by the spinning wheel of “Hey, you are overtaxing me right now.” Eventually, it crashes if you keep pushing.

So how can you free up that space and get your brain working more effectively?

Mindfulness practices can get your thinking brain back online, but doing them can sometimes be really challenging. You might try to bring your awareness to your breath or your feet, but if your working memory is filled with worry thoughts, this effort can feel forced or just not enough to help your mind and body calm down.

So here’s a little exercise to use to reboot that RAM in your brain: It’s called five finger breathing. 

Step 1: Place the index finger of one hand on the outside of the pinky finger on your other hand. As you breathe in, trace up to the tip of your pinky, and as you breathe out, trace down the inside of your pinky.

Step 2: On your next inhale, trace up the outside of your ring finger, and on the exhale, trace down the inside of your ring finger.

Step 3: Inhale and trace up the outside of your middle finger; exhale and trace down the inside of your middle finger.

Step 4: Continue finger by finger until you’ve traced your entire hand.

Step 5: Reverse the process and trace from your thumb back to your pinky.

Five finger breathing is great, because it brings several of your senses together at the same time. You’re watching and feeling your fingers while you’re paying attention to your breath. This not only requires awareness of multiple senses (seeing and feeling) but an awareness of multiple locations in your body (your two fingers, your two hands and your lungs).

When you’re able to use up your RAM with multi-sensory and multi-location awareness, you can forget what you’re worrying about, even if it’s for a few moments. As you do this, you’re also calming your physiology down, so if those thoughts come back, they won’t be as convincing because they won’t have the same emotional tone. Without that arousal, they have less weight behind them and they’re easier to let go of or not react to.

If you have children in your life, I encourage you to teach them five finger breathing. Then, practice together. You can do this before each meal, before nap time, before bed or during other transition points within the day.

If you notice that you’re starting to get worked up during the day, take a moment to express how you’re feeling. You could say, “Oh, I’m a little stressed right now.” Then enlist your kids’ help, which will empower them, and ask them: “Can you help me calm down by leading me in a five finger breathing?”

If you don’t have kids or live alone, no worries. Just let your inner child help and guide you.

This article originally appeared in Elemental.

Watch Judson Brewer’s TEDMED Talk here:


Judson Brewer MD, PhD Judson Brewer is the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center and associate professor in psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Brown University, as well as a research affiliate at MIT. As an addiction psychiatrist and expert in mindfulness training for treating addictions, he has developed and tested novel programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments for smoking, emotional eating and anxiety. Based on the success of these programs in the lab, he cofounded MindSciences, Inc. to create app-based versions of these programs for a wider audience. He is also the author of the book The Craving Mind. 

We Shouldn’t Forget The Positive Aspects Of Growing Old

Is aging a dirty word to you? Do you wish that you could stay young forever and enjoy your youth indefinitely? 

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If so, you’re not alone. In fact, if the cosmetics industry is anything to go by, everyone is in the same boat. We all want to avoid the specter of old-age and frailty

Aging, though, doesn’t have to be negative. For one, it is a sign of success. If your skin is wrinkled and your hair grey, it shows you’re a survivor – you made it through. 

Growing old also provides you with decades of insight you don’t get when you’re younger. It takes time to understand how the whole show works. 

There’s a tendency to see aging as something negative – and in many ways, it is. But there are also positive aspects to it we shouldn’t overlook. 

You Have More Time For Others

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At the start of life, you spend the vast majority of your time working like a maniac, trying to accumulate the resources you need to have a decent quality of life. The problem, though, with working fifty hours a week, is that it takes you away from the things that matter – your friends and family. 

Getting older, however, helps to reverse this process. When you retire, you suddenly have more time to do all the things you never could in your working life. And that means you can invest more time in your relationships – the most motivating aspect of existence for many people. 

You Develop Better Social Skills

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Learning how to navigate the social environment is a massive challenge. Other people are complicated, and so are you. So it takes time to learn the game. 

Once you have several decades under your belt, though, you can gain worldly wisdom. Eventually, you see how the landscape works and are able to run with it confidently. You’re much better able to deal with difficult situations and know precisely what the other person needs to hear. Over time, you become known in your local community for your sensitive, empathic abilities. 

Achieving A Sense Of Accomplishment

Feeling a sense that you’ve accomplished something in your life is difficult when aged twenty. When you hit sixty, though, you’ve had way more time to get done what you needed to do. 

Achieving a sense of accomplishment is something you only get once you pass a certain age. You can watch your children grow up and take on the world, just like you did when you were young. And you can see the effects of your work in the world all over the place. 

You Get Discounts

Despite the fact that you probably have a large pension pot in the bank, you get various privileged discounts when you become a senior. There are discounts all over the place, from medicine to dining to entertainment and transportation. 

All these perks are a way for society to express its collective admiration for people who’ve committed their lives to the good of the people around them. Well – that’s the hope, at least. 

You Have More Time For Civics And Volunteering

When you get older, you no longer have to pursue a career if you don’t want to. Instead, you can change how you use your time, focusing more on civics and volunteering. 

Many in-home senior care providers actively make this a part of their service offering. Being able to dedicate your time to people in need gives your life a strong sense of purpose and fill the days, which can sometimes seem a little empty. 

You Have A Happier Outlook

Over the decades, research has shown that happiness peaks at age twenty and then declines in our thirties and forties, before bouncing back later in life. If you are old, therefore, you are much more likely to feel happy too. 

Why this happens isn’t entirely clear. You would have thought that the younger generation would be the most content since they have their health and vigor. But psychologists believe the reason has to do with an improved ability to deal with hardship. Over the course of their lives, older people develop the skills they need to thrive emotionally, even in situations of adversity. People in their thirties and forties facing issues like unemployment and divorce don’t have the benefit of hindsight. They must go through these things first. 

The perks of getting older, therefore, do exist. Often, it is a question of being grateful for what we have, not angry about things we don’t. 

A blog by Rachel Bustin that you might be interested in. 

Daily Living Aids For The Elderly or Limited Mobility

Dealing with the realities of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

I’m reposting for the very important month of Alzheimer’s Awareness. Although I don’t have Alzheimer’s, I do have dementia caused from Lyme Diseases. Every day my memory slips a little, some days I don’t notice, this week has been a difficult week. I know from experience with my granny’s dementia stress can play a role in how your day is going. Even as she progressed in her diseases I could tell the stress we felt impacted her in some way.

If I can say anything it’s never argue, there is no winning. Change the subject and that often works. I would sometimes have problems with her not wanting to take her medication and become very angry. I let it go and a little while later came back and said time to take your medication. Most of the time it worked.

Remember once your loved one no longer knows who you are it’s not personal, it hurts like hell but it’s not personal. One of the activities I did at the end of granny’s life was show her photos of her parents. I would hear her call out for her mother sometimes and I hoped the photos would give her some peace.

Above all else, there is no right or wrong way to take care of someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. There are many things you can do to make their life easier and safer but you can only do your best. As hard as the decision may be, there are times when an Alzheimer’s rated facility is required. It is very difficult to care for someone at home. It’s a full-time job in addition to health care assistance.


This Month's Flipbook Version


By Bethany Bray

Licensed professional counselor (LPC) Ruth Drew oversees the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24-hour helpline, which offers support to those facing the challenges of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including families and caregivers. The fact that the helpline receives more than 300,000 calls each year hints at the heart-wrenching issues that accompany a dementia diagnosis, not just for the individual but for the person’s entire support system.

“We receive a wide range of questions, from someone worried about the warning signs of cognitive decline or dealing with a new diagnosis, to an adult son whose mother didn’t recognize him for the first time, or a wife wondering how to get her husband with Alzheimer’s to take a bath. Whatever the reason for the call, we meet callers where they are and endeavor to provide the information, resources and emotional support they need,” says Drew, director of information and support services at the Chicago-based nonprofit.

Professional counselors are a good fit to help not only individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s, but also those in their care networks, Drew says. Whether counseling individuals, couples or even children, the far-reaching implications of dementia mean that practitioners of any specialization may hear clients talk about the stressors and overwhelming emotions that can accompany the diagnosis.

“People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases are going through profound life changes — coping with the realities of an incurable disease that is stealing their abilities and their memories. Counseling offers a place to process the losses, develop ways to cope, and find meaning in their current situation,” Drew says. “Similarly, family members face emotional, physical and financial challenges when they care for someone with Alzheimer’s. It helps to have a safe place to process feelings, get support, learn to cope with present realities, and plan for the future.”

A growing need

“Dementia isn’t a normal part of aging. It just happens that most dementia patients are older,” says Jenny Heuer, an LPC and certified dementia practitioner in Georgia who specializes in gerontology. “There is this stigma that just because you’re getting older, you’re going to get dementia.”

The Alzheimer’s Association ( defines dementia as “an overall term for diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.”

Although many people associate dementia with Alzheimer’s, there are numerous forms of dementia, and not all are progressive. Dementia can be reversible or irreversible, depending on the type, explains Heuer, the primary therapist in the geriatric unit at Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee, Georgia. Alzheimer’s, an irreversible, progressive form of dementia, is most common, followed by vascular dementia, which can occur after a stroke. Forms of dementia can also co-occur with Down syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and other diagnoses. Research has also linked moderate to severe traumatic brain injury to a higher risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease years later.

Heuer, a member of the American Counseling Association, recalls a client she counseled who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s prior to age 62. She had lived with a husband who was violent and physically abusive toward her, and the client’s caregivers wondered if she had suffered a brain injury that contributed to her early onset Alzheimer’s.

Heuer notes that other conditions can lead to an assumption or misdiagnosis of dementia. For example, a urinary tract infection (UTI), if left untreated, can progress far enough to cause confusion in a client. Once the UTI is diagnosed and treated, the confusion can dissipate. In addition, excessive alcohol use, depression, medication side effects, thyroid problems, and vitamin deficiencies can cause memory loss and confusion that could be mistaken for dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“There’s so many [other] things to rule out,” Heuer says. “Doctors try to rule out every other health issue before they diagnose dementia.”

The complicated nature of dementia only reinforces the need for counselors to do thorough intake evaluations and to get to know clients holistically, Heuer says. Counselors should ask clients about anything that has affected or could be affecting their brain or memory, including medication use, stress levels, past physical trauma or brain injury, depression, sleep patterns, exercise and other factors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that roughly 50 million people worldwide currently have dementia, and nearly 10 million new cases develop each year. Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia may contribute anywhere from 60% to 70% of that overall number, according to WHO.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 14% of people ages 71 and older in the United States have some form of dementia. A recent report from the nonprofit estimated that 5.7 million Americans of all ages were living with Alzheimer’s-related dementia in 2018, the vast majority of whom (5.5 million) were 65 and older. Close to two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women, according to the association.

These numbers are only expected to increase as the U.S. population ages and the baby-boom generation reaches retirement and later life, Heuer notes.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that in the year 2034, the number of Americans 65 and older will, for the first time in history, eclipse the nation’s number of youths under age 18. By 2060, close to one-quarter of Americans will be 65 or older, and the number of people older than 85 will have tripled.

“Aging issues hit home for counselors across the board,” Heuer says, “because we are all aging, and many are caring for aging parents. … I invite other counselors to join me in working with this population. [Alzheimer’s] is the sixth-leading cause of death. That sounds very morbid, but it’s only going to go higher. More and more people will be diagnosed. With the aging baby-boom population, there’s someone around every corner [who is] going to be impacted by this disease.”

Caring for the caregivers

There is an obvious emotional component to caring for a loved one affected by memory loss and the other aspects of dementia, but there is also the burden of assuming management of the person’s practical tasks, such as financial planning and keeping up with medical appointments. The stress of it all can affect the person’s entire network, says Phillip Rumrill, a certified rehabilitation counselor in Ohio whose professional area of expertise is clients with disability, including dementia.

“Dementia affects the whole family system, and possibly for generations. The person [with dementia] needs help, yes, but [so do] their spouse, children and entire family system. That’s critically important [for counselors to be aware of] when you’re dealing with dementia,” says Rumrill, a member of the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, a division of ACA. “There is a tremendous amount of burnout that comes with being a dementia caregiver.”

Witnessing a loved one’s memory and abilities decline can cause caregivers to feel sad, frustrated, exhausted, overwhelmed, hurt, afraid and even angry, says Matt Gildehaus, an LPC who owns Life Delta Counseling, a private practice in Washington, Missouri.

“The caregivers and loved ones are often the hidden victims of dementia. They can become completely overwhelmed as the role becomes all-encompassing,” says Gildehaus, who counsels adults facing a range of challenges, including aging-related issues and dementia. “Taking care
of someone can easily become an identity that gets affirmed and reinforced until it comes at nearly the complete expense of self-care. When being the caregiver for someone with dementia overtakes their life, the caregiver’s emotional and physical health frequently begin to decline.”

Each of the counselors interviewed for this article asserted that clinicians should, first and foremost, emphasize the importance of self-care with clients who are caregivers to individuals with dementia. Counselor clinicians can ask these clients what they are doing for self-care, help them establish a self-care plan if needed, and connect them with local resources such as support groups and eldercare organizations.

It is also important to encourage clients to ask for help from others when they are becoming overwhelmed, says Rumrill, a professor and coordinator of the rehabilitation counseling program at Kent State University in Ohio, as well as founding director of its Center for Disability Studies. If clients mention having a loved one with dementia, counselors should listen carefully to make sure these clients are taking care of themselves and processing their feelings related to the experience.

Connecting clients to support groups and other resources can be vital because many families feel lost and isolated after their loved one receives a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Drew notes. “This isolation can increase throughout the journey as caregiving demands intensify, especially if they don’t know where to turn for help,” she says.

Families may also experience emotions that parallel the grieving process as they witness the progressive loss of the person they knew. Caregivers might even find themselves with hard feelings emerging toward their loved one, particularly as they try to handle the frustrating behavior challenges that Alzheimer’s and dementia can introduce.

“The disease can be very deceiving because one day the person may be very clear, and another day they’ll be confused. Caregivers can feel [the person is] doing things on purpose, just to push their buttons,” Heuer says. “I often ask if the person was aggressive or called [the client] names before they were diagnosed. Most often, the answer is no. Then I explain that it’s the disease, not the individual” prompting the behavior.

Gildehaus, a member of ACA, has seen similar frustrations among clients in his caseload. “I often help caregiver clients by providing a safe place for them to share the things they don’t feel they can share with family and friends,” he says. “For caregivers, there are three tools I focus on using: therapeutic silence, empathic listening, and normalizing what they often describe as ‘terrible thoughts.’ These … can be ideas like, ‘They make me so angry,’ ‘I dread going to the nursing home some days’ or even ‘Sometimes I secretly hope they don’t live for years like this.’”

Rumrill notes that clients caring for a loved one with dementia may need a counselor’s help to process how the disease has disrupted roles within the family. He experienced this personally when caring for his grandmother, who lived with dementia for years before passing away in 2009 of stomach and liver cancers. Rumrill, who held power of attorney for his grandmother’s financial affairs, had to adjust to taking care of someone who had taken care of him throughout his life. It felt like a role conflict to have to begin making decisions on his grandmother’s behalf while still trying to respect her wishes, he recalls.

“It’s changing roles: They used to take care of you, and now you take care of them,” Rumrill says. “There is an odd juxtaposition when a child is telling a parent what to do. It can be hard [for the older adult] to accept when it’s coming from the younger generation. The roles have switched, and no one got the memo.”

Counseling sessions for couples and families can also serve as safe spaces to talk through the stressors and disagreements that come with caregiving, Rumrill and Heuer note. Counselors can serve as neutral moderators to facilitate conversations about tough subjects that clients may be fearful of or avoiding outside of sessions. This can include talking over logistical or financial issues, such as dividing caregiving tasks or assigning power of attorney, and harder conversations such as when and how to move a loved one to a care facility.

Counselors who work with couples should be aware of the intense stress that providing care for someone with dementia can put on relationships, Rumrill adds. Home life can be turned upside down when one member of a couple’s time and attention are devoted to caregiving. This is especially true if the family member with dementia moves into the home. Tasks that used to flow easily, such as unloading the dishwasher or taking the kids to sports practices, can become points of contention. Challenges that the couple successfully navigated before — from budgeting to parenting issues — can become more pronounced and complicated as caregiving puts extra strain on the couple’s time, emotions and finances, Rumrill says.

It’s an unfortunate reality, but counselors working with clients who have dementia or their families also need to be watchful for signs of elder abuse, including financial abuse, Rumrill says. Dementia patients and their caregivers are also at higher risk for issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and substance use and abuse (which may be used as a coping mechanism).

Listen and validate

Clients who have dementia can get a variety of needs addressed in counseling sessions — needs that will change as the dementia progresses.

In the early stages of dementia, counselors can help clients process their feelings and fears about the diagnosis, as well as work toward accepting and adapting to the changes that are coming. In the middle to latter stages, clients may benefit more from reassurance and validation from a counselor, as well as occasional redirection and calming techniques.

Heuer recalls a client whose husband had recently been placed in a memory care facility because of Alzheimer’s disease. The client — whom Heuer calls “Anne” for the purposes of this example — was dealing with pre-existing depression, which was the initial focus of the counseling sessions. Heuer and Anne also discussed Anne’s relationships with family members and the various changes she was facing, which included moving because of her husband’s placement in the memory care facility.

According to Heuer, Anne harbored a great fear of losing her own memory, and over time, her memory did in fact begin to deteriorate. She would acknowledge the decline in counseling sessions as she and Heuer talked about its impact on Anne’s life. Later, as Anne’s dementia progressed, Heuer shifted her work to focus more on fostering Anne’s feelings of safety and connection. “The interesting part of working with Anne is she never mentioned the word dementia. I heard about her diagnosis from family and caregivers,” Heuer recalls.

“As her memory declined, I would reflect her feelings [in counseling],” Heuer says. “Then there were sessions where Anne would spend the majority of the time talking about how she had been traveling on a train and had just gotten off the train. Frequently, she would share the story as if it was the first time she was telling it to me.” Heuer says one of the best suggestions she has been given for working with clients with dementia is to show them the same level of patience and attention regardless of whether they are telling her a story or sharing a memory with her for the first time or the 10th time.

“Anne also had hallucinations [in the latter stages of dementia],” Heuer says. “She had moments of clarity where she knew they were hallucinations and questioned her own sanity. I had no magical cure or answer. I would try and imagine how I would feel if this were happening to me and [then] tapped into empathy and the core foundation of person-centered therapy.”

Most of all, individuals with dementia need a counselor to simply “be present and listen,” adds John Michalka, an LPC with a solo private practice in Chesterfield, Missouri. He specializes in working with clients who have mood disorders related to chronic illness, including dementia.

“Patients living with dementia often tell me they just need their loved ones to stop nagging them and making them feel like the things they are doing are intentional,” says Michalka, an ACA member who has personal experience caring for a loved one with dementia. “The patient isn’t forgetting on purpose. The patient has enough to deal with without being made to feel like a burden as well. It always amazes me how simple and unselfish the patient’s request is when it comes to what they need: just simple love, understanding and patience.”

The following insights may be helpful for counselors who treat clients with dementia. Some of the guidance may also be relevant to share with clients who are family members of or caregivers to a person with dementia.

>> Correcting versus agreeing: Patients in the memory care unit where Heuer works sometimes come up to her and say, “It’s so good to see you again!” even though they have never met her before. Over time, she has learned to read clients and think on her feet to respond appropriately to remarks that aren’t based in reality.

For caregivers, deciding whether to correct a person with dementia or go along with what the person is saying can become a daily or even moment-to-moment struggle. Heuer says her decision to validate or correct is often based on how likely the person is to become agitated or aggressive. But empathy also comes into play. “I try to put myself in their shoes. How would I feel if I were seeing a friend I hadn’t seen in a while? It really comes down to meeting them in their emotions.”

Some clinicians may call the practice of validating or going along with a client with dementia “therapeutic lying,” Heuer says, but “I call it ‘molding the information’ and doing what it takes for them to feel calm and safe. …We have to adapt to them because they are not able to adapt to us. It is as if they have a different inner world, and we have to meet them in their world.”

Michalka says he also finds validation therapy helpful for easing anxiety in clients. With clients who are dementia caregivers, he often emphasizes that what is going on in the mind of the person with dementia is their reality.

He recalls one client who was beginning to panic because they saw someone in their room. “There was no one in the room, but the patient’s experience or perception of a stranger in their room was real,” Michalka says. “A natural reaction for most caregivers would be to correct the patient. In doing so, we are challenging the patient’s perception of reality. This typically will only escalate the patient’s anxiety and, in doing so, escalate the loved one’s or caregiver’s anxiety.

“Imagine if you saw a stranger in your room, and when you [try] to tell someone, they proceed to tell you, ‘No, there [isn’t].’ Would you not become more and more agitated as you try to convince them [and] they continue to challenge your reality? Instead, we should validate their experience by asking if that stranger is still in the room. Then, one would empathize with the patient by validating how scary that must have been, but now the stranger is no longer there and they are safe. After which, the patient’s attention should be redirected to a more pleasant thought or situation.”

>>  Considering the whole person: Working with clients with dementia “takes you out of your comfort level because you have to become very creative in how you interact with [them]. It’s not the type of counseling that you learn in a textbook,” Heuer says. “Your ability to counsel and work with these individuals goes well beyond the knowledge you gain about counseling in your master’s [program].”

Heuer encourages clinicians to learn more about who clients were before their dementia diagnosis — what they did for a career, what their hobbies were, their likes and dislikes. Counselors can ask clients directly for this personal information or seek details from their family members. Learning these personal details can help to better inform counselors’ interventions and help form stronger connections with clients, Heuer says. “Tapping into what made them happy as a human being [without dementia] may be therapeutic for them,” she adds.

For example, a client who loves baseball may be comforted and more responsive while watching a televised ballgame or flipping through an album of baseball cards with a counselor. A client who was a teacher or a banker might find comfort writing in a ledger. Even clients with late-stage dementia can respond when their favorite music is played, Heuer notes.

She recalls one client who had previously worked in business and would sometimes think that his caregiver was his secretary. When this happened, the caregiver would “take notes” for him by writing on paper. “It doesn’t have to make sense, but to them it may make sense,” says Heuer, whose doctoral dissertation was on the lived experiences of individuals with early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

>>  Redirecting: When working with clients in the middle to latter stages of dementia, techniques that prompt a change of focus are invaluable. Redirection can keep these clients from becoming upset or escalating to aggression, Heuer says. For caregivers, this technique might involve engaging the person in an activity that they used to enjoy or simply asking for help with a task, such as folding laundry or setting the table.

“Redirection really comes into play when an individual is exhibiting behaviors such as agitation, fear, anger or paranoia,” Heuer explains. “Normally, there is something in their environment that is triggering them. An example we often observe and hear about is an individual [who] is wanting to go home. In essence, they want to feel safe and are looking for something familiar. Redirection is a technique that refocuses the individual’s attention in an effort to therapeutically calm them and make them feel safe.”

Heuer mentions a woman who was wandering in the care facility where Heuer works and feeling a strong urge to leave. The woman was getting agitated and escalating to the point that staff members were going to medicate her. Heuer stepped in and asked the woman if she wanted to take a walk. The woman agreed and soon calmed down as she and Heuer walked together and chatted.

With dementia, behaviors often manifest out of the person’s worry about their own safety or the safety of loved ones, Heuer notes.

“We all have that need to have a sense of purpose. Just because someone has dementia, they’re not less human. They have similar needs but have a different way of communicating them. Usually, there is a need behind every single behavior they’re displaying,” Heuer says.

>> Working through grief: Individuals with dementia and their loved ones often experience a range of grief-related emotions, from denial and avoidance to sadness. Counselors may find it helpful to use grief and loss techniques with these clients, Rumrill says.

Watching a loved one with dementia decline and seemingly change into a different person can feel similar to experiencing that person’s death or loss, Rumrill says. In the case of his grandmother, even her vocabulary and the way she spoke changed. She began using profanity and other words that Rumrill wasn’t previously aware she even knew. When she became angry, Rumrill says she would “go off” on people, which she never did prior to her dementia diagnosis.

“There’s a tremendous sense of loss that can go with that. The person you knew and loved isn’t there [any longer],” he says. “I was grieving the loss of who [his grandmother] was and also grieving with her over her loss of independence.”

Feelings of loss can also resurface for clients with dementia who are widows or widowers, even if they have previously processed their partner’s death. Dementia can reaggravate the person’s feelings of grief and sadness or even ignite feelings of anger toward a deceased partner for leaving them to go through their dementia journey alone, Rumrill says.

Family members and caregivers may experience repeated cycles of grief as their loved one’s dementia or Alzheimer’s progresses, Michalka adds. “Each time the loved one living with dementia progresses to the next stage, the client [a caregiver or family member] in some ways repeats the grieving process. They now are experiencing another loss. It is as if they have lost their loved one once again,” Michalka says. “It is extremely difficult for many clients to have mom or dad not know who they are or simply not remember their name. The client loses their loved one many times during the progression of dementia. At a minimum, the client loses the person their loved one once was, and then once again upon the passing of the loved one.”

>> Focusing on strengths: Clients with dementia are likely to be saddened by the anticipated or actual loss of their abilities. A counselor can help these clients flip their perspective to focus on what the person can still do, Heuer says. She often uses the words strengths and challenges, not weaknesses, during conversations about what the client is still able to do and enjoy.

For example, a client with dementia may no longer be able to maintain a garden outdoors, but gardening supplies and planter pots can be brought to the person inside so they can still get their hands in the soil. “Activities can change as the disease progresses,” Heuer notes.

>>  Using “tell me about” prompts: Gildehaus says that narrative therapy can be a helpful technique with clients who have dementia. These clients often respond well to storytelling prompts, even as their memories fade. It can be therapeutic for clients with dementia to share memories and, in turn, to feel heard and understood, he explains.

Similarly, Heuer uses reminiscence therapy with clients with memory loss, asking individuals to talk about their careers, families, and other favorite memories. It is not helpful, however, to frame questions by asking clients whether they remember something, she stresses. Instead, counselors can use gentler “tell me about” prompts to spur clients to open up. For example, instead of asking, “Do you remember your parents?” a counselor would say, “Tell me about your parents,” Heuer explains.

Rumrill notes that group work can be very helpful for caregivers or family members of people with dementia, especially to prevent or ease burnout. Motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral techniques, and rational emotive techniques can also help clients process the changes and stresses that come with having a loved one with dementia. But Rumrill urges counselors to use whatever techniques they find to be most helpful to and best suited for the client.

Dementia is “no more stressful than any other life issue that brings people to counseling; it’s just different,” Rumrill says. “It has unique features that need to be understood to help. Marshal all the coping reserves you can to help the client.”

>>  Offering empathic listening: Gildehaus notes that professional counselors’ core skills of listening, empathic reflection and normalization can go a long way for clients dealing with dementia.

“In my experience, clients struggling with dementia need someone to listen to them for understanding without confronting them, trying to argue with them, or trying to fix them,” Gildehaus says. “Normalizing frustrations and fears related to memory challenges and aging also helps clients feel less defective.”

When working with clients who have dementia, Gildehaus says his primary objective is to offer a nonjudgmental environment in which these individuals can share their frustrations and fears. “My efforts are focused on providing an interaction where they feel heard and understood without feeling questioned or having someone trying to talk them out of their ideas,” he says.

This came into play this past summer as Gildehaus faced a tough conversation with a client who needed to give up her right to drive because of cognitive decline. “This was very hard for her,” he recalls. “She argued that she did not drive far, that she had not had any accidents, and that she didn’t care if she died in an accident. She became very emotional — tearful and angry. I listened empathically, validated her truths, and reflected her logic and feelings. Then, I asked if she wanted her lasting legacy to be causing someone else’s injury or death. She agreed this was not what she wanted. We then explored options and resources that would allow her to maintain her freedom and active schedule without driving. We talked about local taxi services, friends who were going to the same activities [and could give her a ride], and the obvious solution became allowing her home health care provider to drive her most of the time.”

Still human

Individuals with a dementia diagnosis often feel as if they’ve been labeled as damaged goods, “deemed incompetent and unable to do anything for themselves,” Heuer says. The empathy and support that professional counselors are capable of offering these clients can go a long way toward changing that mindset, she asserts.

People with dementia “are still capable, still human, and they have emotions,” Heuer emphasizes. “There is an immediate stigma attached to someone [with a dementia diagnosis] that they aren’t able to do anything for themselves, and that’s often a source of frustration. There is an assumption that they’re helpless. But they will say, ‘I need help.” … They will let you know. What they need from counselors — and everyone else — is the recognition that they are still a person and still human.”


Counselors as caregivers

Despite a career as a helping professional, Phillip Rumrill found himself feeling “inadequate” when it came to caring for his grandmother as her dementia progressed. He admits that he learned how to manage “through trial and error.”

The professional objectivity that allows practitioners to help others process issues in counseling simply isn’t there when it comes to caring for their own loved ones, says Rumrill, a certified rehabilitation counselor and a professor and coordinator of the rehabilitation counseling program at Kent State University.

“All of this stuff that you know about professionally goes out the window when you experience it personally,” Rumrill says. “You may have helped a client who is dealing with this, but it’s not the same when you’re going through it yourself. … You may think that because you have expertise in helping others you might know procedurally what to do, but it’s just different when it’s affecting you on a core level. You can arm yourself with information, but it’s going to be very different to be going through it on your own.”

Although it may not come easily, counselors who have loved ones with dementia should heed the same guidance they would give to clients in the same situation, including keeping up with their self-care and asking for help when needed.

After his grandmother passed away in 2009, Rumrill collaborated with two colleagues, Kimberly Wickert and Danielle Dresden, who also had cared for loved ones with dementia, to write the book The Sandwich Generation’s Guide to Elder Care. Their hope was that their insights might help other practitioners who were facing similar challenges. “You can’t be [your] family’s counselor,” Rumrill says. “Sometimes you have to shut off your professional side and deal with the humanity of your own experience.”

John Michalka, a licensed professional counselor and private practitioner, says he and his wife experienced a range of issues — from stress to anxiety to grief — while caring for his mother-in-law. Michalka’s mother-in-law, who had vascular dementia, moved in with Michalka and his wife in 2013 when she was no longer able to care for herself.

“I took a hiatus from work, and for the last two years of her life, I cared for her until she passed [in January 2015],” he says. “I watched my wife, as a daughter, struggle with pain and grieving during every step down of the disease, from [her mother] forgetting our names to [us] becoming absolute strangers. For me, I was the caregiver and did my best to suppress the emotion. To say the least, caring for anyone living with dementia can be extremely difficult. At least it was for me.”


The Alzheimer’s Association has a wealth of information on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including nuances of the diagnoses and resources for living with or caring for a person who has been diagnosed. Call the association’s 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit (click the “Help & Support” tab for links to online and local support groups).

Also, the U.S. Administration on Aging offers an eldercare services search tool at Resources are also available from the Dementia Action Alliance ( and the Family Caregiver Alliance (


Contact the counselors interviewed for this article:


Read more

Check out an extended Q+A with licensed professional counselor Ruth Drew, the Alzheimer’s
Association’s director of information and support services, at CT Online:


What doctors and patients can learn from each other

U.S. Pain Foundation

By Abigail Chua, DO, and Katie M. Golden,PP (professional patient)

Headache Specialist Abigail Chua, DO, and Katie M. Golden—a self-proclaimed professional patient—candidly unravel best practices for creating a successful partnership.

First appointment jitters

Dr. Chua: Katie, what’s your biggest pet peeve when you see a health care professional for your headache disease?

Katie: I feel like I’m auditioning to gain a spot in their clinic. I prepare for three to 12 months. That’s a long time to get stuck in my head and think of all the possible outcomes. Then all of my hopes and dreams could go down in flames if we don’t vibe.

Dr. Chua: You make a good point. To a doctor, this visit is a normal part of their work day, but to you as a patient, it could be a significant life event that has caused excitement and maybe anxiety for months.

Learning moment: Health care providers should remain empathetic. And patients should remember that they are evaluating their doctor, too. Don’t think of it as an audition. Reframe it as an opportunity to find the headache specialist who best suits your needs.

Preparing for your appointment

Dr. Chua: Most headache specialists ask patients to fill out a questionnaire in advance of their appointment. While these seem tedious, they help focus on the specific details of your headache. Without it, your visit may not be what you’re expecting because it may limit what your doctor can safely prescribe for you. I often wonder why some patients become upset when they’re asked to fill these out.

Katie: Honestly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Brain fog makes completing a task in one sitting difficult. Then I think, will you even look at it? And what about medical records? No joke, I have a box filled with notes, diaries, pathology reports, and scans that weighs 40 pounds!

Learning moment: Remember that it’s about quality, not quantity. Don’t bring 40 pounds of your medical records, but do bring:
Your completed questionnaire. (Any good headache specialist will review it.)

Recent imaging scans, like an MRI or CT scan. If possible, bring copies of the actual images as well as the written reports. List of current medications, including over-the-counter medications, that you take for all your medical conditions; not just headache. List of previously tried headache treatments and your reactions to them.

Mental health and migraine

Katie: Why do I have to see a psychiatrist? Migraine is a genetic, neurological disease that is not my fault, so being told I need to see a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist makes me think you don’t believe me.

Dr. Chua: Understand that a mental health referral does not mean “it is in your head.” Pain doesn’t just affect you physically; it causes feelings of anxiety, sadness, hopelessness. Some people develop healthy coping skills and have a solid support system, while others just aren’t equipped with the right tools.

Learning moment: A good treatment plan is a multidisciplinary approach that addresses all the ways that headache diseases and comorbidities are affecting a person.
Alternative methods
Dr. Chua: Many people use alternative treatments in addition to traditional medications. Katie, what do you use?

Katie: There has to be a balance of medications and “self-healing” practices often referred to as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). For me, that may mean yoga, but for others it could be meditation, reiki, herbal supplements, essential oils, or acupuncture.

Dr. Chua: I have a certain set of criteria that I ask patients when they ask about alternative treatments. They should make sure that the treatment isn’t illegal, isn’t going to harm them, won’t put them into debt trying to get it, and makes at least some kind of medical or scientific sense. If these criteria are met, then I am usually open to them trying it.

Learning moment: There are many alternative treatments available to patients. However, natural does not mean safe, so tell your doctor everything you’re doing or taking.

Goals and expectations

Dr. Chua: There is currently no cure for migraine and headache diseases. The goal of headache medicine is not to “fix” your headaches. Instead, my goal is to help improve a patient’s quality of life by finding ways to manage their disease, so that despite their headache, they are able to live the life they want.

Katie: When my headache specialist told me that I was chronic and there isn’t a cure, it was a punch in the gut. I had to accept that migraine had taken up permanent residence in my body. My perspective changed and I stopped chasing a cure that doesn’t exist.

Learning moment: “No cure” doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Many new treatments are in the pipeline. Find a headache specialist to help manage your disease, but keep your expectations realistic: Not everyone will become headache-free. •

Abigail Chua, DO, is a double board-certified neurologist andheadache specialist at the Hartford Healthcare Headache Center in Connecticut. She is also the program director of its Headache and Facial Pain Fellowship Program, as well a previous INvisible Project participant. Dr. Chua also has chronic migraine, giving her a unique perspective into the world of headache.

Katie M. Golden is the Migraine Advocacy Liaison for the U.S. Pain Foundation, contributing editor of the INvisible Project, and director of Patient Relations for CHAMP (Coalition For Headache And Migraine Patients). Writing and advocating have given back the power that chronic migraine had stolen from her.

Review of Aromalief Hemp Pain Relief Cream *New Affiliate Information

I love Aromalief Calming Pain Cream so much I’ve become an Affiliate. When you make a purchase thru the links you will help fund my coffee habit. You won’t be charged more for using the link.

Thank you.

Aromalief Hemp Pain Relief Cream Sensitive - 4oz

I’m reviewing Aromalief Hemp Pain Relief, Hemp 1000MG as a member of Chronic Illness Bloggers and have not received payment for my review.

I was thrilled to find the product is cruelty-free, vegan, PETA approved, and in a relaxing Lavender scent. I have not tried Hemp cream products before because of the smell and was eager to see how well the cream worked.

Here’s some information about Aromalief

What about the safety of the product?

Aromalief is made in an FDA registered facility and each ingredient has a Safety Data Sheet and Certificate of Analysis. We buy only high-quality ingredients from reputable suppliers and do our own internal testing for everyone’s peace of mind.

How do you make sure Aromalief is Vegan and Cruelty-free?

Every ingredient that we source comes with a written letter from the ingredient manufacturer that the product does not contain any animal ingredients and that they do not test it on animals. The manufacturing line also has a strict vegan-only policy. Aromalief is proud to have PETA’s Vegan & Cruelty-free designation.

What type of pain is Aromalief good for?

Pains of the body and the soul. This includes muscle, joint, nerve, and chronic pains PLUS stress, anxiety, and sadness. Our ingredients are the best in the market to help relieve pain due to arthritis, back pain, herniated discs, carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, and more. If your type of pain isn’t listed here, we still encourage you to try it. If it doesn’t help you, then simply return it. Have a little faith and try Aromalief.

Aromalief Hemp Pain Relief Cream Sensitive - 4oz

 My Affiliate link:

The cream has a subtle lavender and menthol scent, not overpowering. I have slightly sensitive skin and the cream didn’t cause any sensitivity.

It rubs in quickly, no greasy fingers on the keypad. It has a warming sensation that eases inflammation. I focused on three areas, the neuropathy in my feet, sore shoulder muscles, and arthritis in hands.

Right away I noticed a difference in my feet, they could touch each other without pain. It lasted long enough for me to go to sleep. My shoulders are always tense and I have a problem relaxing at night. I used the cream on my worst shoulder and it did warm up the muscles helping me to relax.

The thing I love the most about the cream is how well it worked on arthritis in my fingers, I also noticed neuropathy relief in hands. The fact that the cream dries enough to get right back on the computer is a huge bonus.

I have already bought two tubes to make part of my daily self-care. Aromalief is a great everyday hand cream too.

Aromalief Hemp Pain Relief Cream Sensitive - 4oz

Please check out their website at

A special thank you to Annabel at Aromalief and Chronic Illness Bloggers

Melinda Sandor




How self-care (the right kind) can help you

U.S. Pain Foundation

By Kerrie Smyres

Between social media posts about spa days and advertising from the $450 billion wellness industry, it can be tempting to dismiss self-care as expensive gluttony. Yet when you have a chronic illness like migraine, self-care is a necessity rather than a treat. Instead of lavish pampering, self-care, when you’re sick, tends toward practical, routine necessity. (Though everyone could use an indulgence from time to time!)

If self-care isn’t getting massages and facials while lounging on the beach in Hawaii, then what is it? Self-care is the simple act of listening to and attending to your needs in a way that you find restorative. Even the smallest acts can be self-care. If you love turning down the sheets on a neatly made bed, then making your bed every day is a form of self-care. If you crave a particular brand of coffee and it’s in your budget, then making a cup for yourself each day also qualifies.

Self-care doesn’t have to cost any money and it doesn’t have to take much time. The amount of time you spend is up to you—it can be taking an extra two minutes to lie in bed after your alarm goes off to gear yourself up for the day, a 10-minute phone call to a friend, a daylong hike, or anything in-between.

If you’re new to self-care and eager to get started, it’s tempting to jump in and try a variety of approaches all at once. That’s a great way to get burned out on self-care and decide it’s more work than it’s worth! You also won’t know which practice is helping you most. Instead, try one small thing to start. Choose something that’s both meaningful to you and manageable given your time constraints.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you find a mode of self-care that will be most comforting for you:

What’s your favorite part of the day? Identify the things you already do often and love, then make them a regular part of your day. By creating a ritual around an activity, you can transform it from mundane to self-care. This can be as simple as changing into your favorite pajamas early each evening or listening to your favorite song while stuck in traffic.

What is something you get to do occasionally that makes you feel restored? If coloring makes you smile, you can carve out a few minutes every day to color. Or if being in nature is a necessity for you, see if there’s a spot in your yard or a nearby park that you can spend some time in regularly.

You may have things you love to do that don’t seem, at first, like they could become part of your everyday life. Those might just need a creative solution. For example, you may love dancing to live music, but avoid concerts because they are full of triggers. Can you get your fix by dancing in your living room?

What’s something you did as a kid that you’d love to do again? Climbing a tree, playing with Play-Doh, or riding a bike can all be forms of self-care. You might try one of those again and love it so much that you incorporate it into your life on a regular basis, or you might do it once and decide it’s not something you want to do again. Even trying novel activities is, in itself, a form of self-care. (And it’s good for your brain!)

What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but never tried? If you’ve wanted to try yoga, you can take a class or just learn a few stretches to do at home. (Check out YogaWithAdriene on YouTube.) You can pick up a new language in small increments through a free app like DuoLingo or Memrise, which stretches your brain and doesn’t take too much time each day. Maybe you dream of writing a book; while that kind of project could be more exhausting than it is relaxing, you can still flex your writing muscles by journaling for 10 minutes a day.

If you decide that trying something new is how you want to incorporate self-care, try to keep it simple to start—if getting yourself to weekly harp lessons and finding the time to practice is more stressful than it is relaxing, then it’s unlikely to feel like self-care.

What’s a migraine lifestyle change that you’d like to adopt? Self-care can also encompass all those things you know you should do to manage migraine, but may not prioritize, like getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising. If you’re new to self-care, consider starting with a change that’s likely to have a positive impact on your life beyond migraine. You want self-care to be relaxing, not a chore that feels like drudgery in service of migraine.

Self-care is as individual as you are. It need not be elaborate or time-consuming, it just needs to be something that helps you find comfort and relaxation. And remember, if it’s not working, give something new a try!

Kerrie Smyres is a writer and patient advocate who has had chronic migraine for 30+ years. She is the founder of The Daily Headache and is a contributor. Kerrie is passionate about “translating” medical research into language patients can understand easily and writing candidly about life with chronic illness.