In intensive care environments, patients’ families are often encouraged to participate in their loved one’s care; however, many family members feel anxious, depressed, and unsure about how to help patients.


To determine (1) the feasibility of teaching family members a simple intervention combining hand massage with essential oils in a trauma intensive care unit and (2) an effect size for use in designing a more powerful trial.


A quasi-experimental pilot study of the effect of a family-delivered touch treatment on anxiety and depression of family members of patients. Fifteen family members were assigned to a treatment group, and 15 family members were assigned to a control group. The treatment consisted of the application of hand massage with essential oils for 6 sessions. Each session lasted 5 minutes and was presented twice a day for 3 days.


The 5-minute intervention was associated with positive change in anxiety and depression scores on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) among family members visiting patients. The magnitude of change (improvement) in anxiety scores within the group of treated family members was significantly greater than within family members in the control group.


Administering a brief hand massage using pleasant-smelling oils to patients in an intensive care unit may reduce anxiety of family members who administer the treatment.

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