Article from caring.com
How Scent Can Spark Memories and Good Moods for Someone with Dementia
By Paula Spencer Scott, Caring.com senior editor
Although someone with severe-stage dementia may seem beyond all interaction, you may be able to reach in and connect through smell. (The sense of smell tends to diminish with dementia, but many people retain some of it.) Memories (read more about the part of the brain called the amygdala) connected to scent tend to be deeply enduring. At minimum, familiar and pleasing smells can create a happy mood. Some things to try:
- Perfume or cologne. Know your loved one’s favorites? What old bottles do you see around? Spray a little Old Spice or White Shoulders in the air or the wrist.
- Work-related scents. Ex-teachers may respond to chalk or crayons, farmers to fresh-mown hay.
- Strong, distinct flowers. Hyacinths, lilacs, gardenias and roses for examples. Did/does your loved one keep a garden? Bring in fresh-cut flowers or find a potpourri to place in a bowl. Or light a scented candle during your visits.
- Lotions. There’s no end to options, from citrus to vanilla to musky scents. Explore a drugstore or chain selling inexpensive lotions and see if any remind you of your loved one. Or, mix it up; buy several small bottles and use a different one on your loved one’s hands or feet each day.
- Spices and herbs. A cook may be drawn to cinnamon or nutmeg. Open a container to sniff, or shake some onto a potpourri. Or keep a plant of fresh basil or lemon balm handy.
Other homey food smells. Bake fresh cookies or lemon pound cake, sliced limes, a bar of chocolate. Bacon. Even someone who no longer likes to or is able to eat these things may spark to the scent. Ask other older family members about favorite foods, places and faces. Look at photo albums for events.