How scents can help people with dementia

We have previously blogged about the importance of photos and music and how these can help a person with dementia recapture lost memories.

Research has shown that scents can also play a crucial role in triggering forgotten memories, even more so than pictures or music can. Our sense of smell is rooted in the same part of our brain which is responsible for memory and emotion. A quick sniff of a certain smell can connect us to events, feelings and memories of people and places.

Pleasant scents can also help a person with dementia feel happier and improve their mood.

If your loved-one with dementia had a favourite perfume, you could dig it out and have them wear it or spray a pillow or scarf – it might help take them back to a certain occasion or event in their life or remember friends or family members.

Strong scented flowers such as roses, lavender or hyacinth work just as well too, particularly if your loved-one was a gardener or enjoyed being outside. Have fresh flowers in the home for them or potpourri in a bowl. Lavender can also help reduce anxiety and help with sleep for a person with dementia.

Spices and herbs and general food smells can also help trigger memories. The strong scent of a spice such as cinnamon might help with festive memories or mint or rosemary could take them right back to a happy family dinner time.

It’s important when a person with dementia does remember something that you allow them to discuss it as much as they can and make a note of how it made them feel so you can use the same scent again in the future.