Scent and Dementia

How Scent Can Spark Memories and Good Moods for Someone With Dementia
smelling-flowers

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 connected to odor tend to be deeply enduring, like Proust's memories of madeleines. At minimum, familiar and pleasing odors can create a happy mood.

Some things to try:

  • Perfume or cologne. Know your loved one's favorites? (Hint: Look in dusty bottles on the dressing table or in a medicine cabinet.) Spray a little Old Spice or White Shoulders in the air or on a wrist. Older women may favor dusting powder.

  • Work-related scents. Ex-teachers may respond to chalk or crayons, farmers to fresh-mown hay.

  • Strong, distinct flowers. Hyacinths, lilacs, and roses are examples. Did/does your loved one keep a garden? Bring in fresh-cut flowers or find a potpourri to place in a bowl (if you can be sure your loved one won't attempt to eat it).

  • 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 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 some fresh cookies, cut lemons, open a bar of chocolate. Even someone who no longer likes to or is able to eat these things may spark to the scent.


2 months ago, said...

Sadness is my name and the way I feel at times it is over whelming and just seems to arrive with a song, memory or anything. My husband has had dementia since 2009 and I am gradually loosing the man I married to now live with a 2-4 year old who does not remember the past, and short memory for the "now".


over 2 years ago, said...

daliala 13 - The sense of smell, which also affect taste unfortunately disappears at some point in dementia. She can probably tell the difference between sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, which is what the taste buds on the tongue differentiate. The other "tastes" are part of the nose. Sorry to hear this about your Mom. Scent can be very important to ladies.


over 2 years ago, said...

My mother in law like chanel #5 so we took her to the mall just to have a outing for the day. Seeing all the sights she just likes to look.We found a perfume store we walked in and asked if he sold that perfume. He had one closetd to it he sprayed some on a cloth . She tryed spelling it and could not smell it. He said I have something you can try , so he gave us a jar of coffee beans and she could not smell that. I'm worried she has lost her sense of smell


over 2 years ago, said...

a new idea, to me, that makes a whole lot of sense (scents too :)


almost 3 years ago, said...

Hello Fading Memories -We can never know how a scent will influence the loved one with Dementia. I would like to believe they do enjoy the pleasant aroma and somehow they travel back to a certain place and time. Maybe we can appreciate that it takes them to their "Secret Garden" which only they will visit. We can hope that memories and visions, only they can know or understand, will give them a little peace and happiness. God Bless so many. Lynda Kacicz


almost 3 years ago, said...

Alway wondered if mom, favorite perfume Charlie would remind of her of a special time in life's past


almost 3 years ago, said...

Easy ideas despite dealing with a not so easy situation. Thankyou, we all need tips to keep us going, and this could be a fun thing.


almost 3 years ago, said...

I'm not a caretaker nor do I know any persons' with dementia but I enjoy reading what you write. Today's idea is a really good one. I love smells and when something passes by me that I can relate to it's wonderful. There is a certain perfume I used to have and when I enter my church that smell just envelopes my senses. Many times I can smell different scents before anyone else with me can. Guess I have a pretty good smeller, and I'm glad that I do. Love lemons, baked cookies, Italian food, etc. Thank you. Lynda Kacicz


over 3 years ago, said...

Ideas to put in practice with my Mom in the Nursing Home.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Thank you Paula! Fruits are a safe and delightful choice. Tell stories about them, smell them, make lemonade with them! As an activities coordinator, I always had an orange, a lemon, a grapefruit handy, ready to talk about Florida and California days, my car that was a lemon :), using zest for desserts...and when I started the conversation, it sparked the stories of others, always.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Such simple things can do so much.


almost 4 years ago, said...

I believe it was the perfect info on the subject, not too much and not too little. Thank you


almost 4 years ago, said...

I was diagnoised with the 1st stages of Dementia about 5 yrs. ago & have lost both senses of taste & smell,but mostly memories. Whats happening ?


almost 4 years ago, said...

For those fragrances that are no longer in stores, or are difficult to find, check Vermont Country Store (on-line). They carry some of the 'older' scents which are Loved Ones may be familiar with, and they are pretty reasonable in pricing. Yardley, English Leather (cologne, aftershave, soap on a rope), Joy (the original), White Shoulders Original Honeysuckle, Bay Rum, 4711, Arpege, and so on. They carry lots of hard to find items.


almost 4 years ago, said...

great!!! sadly the perfume that my mother loved is sooooo expensive!!! but i do wonder, does she recognize me by sight and scent? When she starts to die (a terrible thought to ponder) i thought of using blankets that have my scent...thoughts?


about 4 years ago, said...

Great ideas! There are so many ways to connect with your loved one. I have already used these with excelent results. It's always a hit or miss thing. but I try different things and have found that some things will work in a certain stage and won't in others. Even though they don't espress feelings and emotions in words, facial expressions, and body language speak volumes. Music, pictures, foods, old movies and DVD's are all great things to stimulate your loved one as well. Keep trying to stimulate them and reap the rewards.


about 4 years ago, said...

I would steer clear of scents associated with someone that was very close and has passed away. I cannit wear my Mother's scent as it is upsetting. Try to stay with your scents or scents that are part of your shared memories with the individual and/or specific to your relationship.


over 4 years ago, said...

Harmony is what I strive for and any suggestions are welcomed. I have used some of these my self in an attempt to promp any positive reactions. I take mom for a ride as she is always raring to go, somewhere, anywhere but where she is. I play dumb and tell her to give me directions to get back home. She has no idea who I am but she knows her way home...It makes me smile. When something make Mom or Dad smile, it make me smile. Hugs and prayers to all who have stepped up to the challange and are caring for a loved one at home. I'm blessed, I have both of them with me. Yesterday was their 64th wedding anniversary.....Amen!


almost 5 years ago, said...

Never thought about the sense of smell being important for her.


about 5 years ago, said...

I've always been a believer in aromatherapy and have found many scents that seem to help bring a calming effect and pleasant memories for all of us


over 5 years ago, said...

i"ll be curious to see if my friend responds to a new scent tomorrow..


over 5 years ago, said...

Very helpful information. Thank you


over 5 years ago, said...

Very helpful