This study was conducted in one multicultural dementia day-care centre over a period of 18 months. It introduced a gentle hand treatment for clients using three essential oils. The study evolved out of the process of action research where the family carers and day-care staff participated with the researchers to choose, design, develop and evaluate a hand treatment programme. Data was collected through in-depth interviews pre- and post-treatment, focus group discussions, client observation logbooks and a disability scale. The findings indicate a positive strengthening of the relationship between the person with dementia and their family carer, and an improvement in feelings of health and well-being for both. The specific improvements for clients include increased alertness, self-hygiene, contentment, initiation of toileting, sleeping at night and reduced levels of agitation, withdrawal and wandering. Family carers have reported less distress, improved sleeping patterns and feelings of calm. They also found the treatment useful in helping them manage the difficult behaviours exhibited by their relative with dementia. The benefits of this treatment for nursing practice are that it is safe, effective and easily administered by staff in any setting.