Mar 14, 2018

Dementia and Smell: How Your Nose Can Trigger Your Memory

When a person has dementia, one of the most common symptoms is memory dysfunction.

It’s wrong to assume that a person with dementia has completely lost their memories. Rather, there is dysfunction that makes it challenging for the person to recall it.

The memories of people with dementia are able to affect their actions and behaviours – even if they can’t remember why.

This is called implicit memory, which is defined as “a change in the way a person behaves that is due to an experience that the person does not recall having had”.

When trying to trigger memories, people often turn to visual aids – such as photos and videos – or audio – such as voices or songs. But what about smell?

The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, potentially more so than any other senses.  

Those with full olfactory function may be able to think of smells that evoke particular memories.

For older people, this could be the smell of fragrances they wore then they were younger, or vintage hair products. It could be the familiar smell of the children or grandchildren.

It could even be a deceased spouse’s old clothing.

So how does smell have such a strong connection? Well according to Psychology Today;

Incoming smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb, which starts inside the nose and runs along the bottom of the brain. The olfactory bulb has direct connections to two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus.

Smell works in two distinct phases; the first is instinctively connected to our feelings about the smell – essentially, do we like it or not, what does it remind us of, and the second is a more analytical process that leads us to try to identify what the smell is.

One of the reasons why smell is so emotionally driven is because of response to smell is often made by association, simply because different people can have completely different perceptions of the same smell.

For some people, a smell that might be nice and aromatic, for other might be harsh are overpowering.

Aside from smells that are familiar, there are smells that can help soothe. People with dementia are prone to agitation – usually due to an unmet need.

Soothing calming smells, such as lavender, rose, ylang ylang and chamomile – many of which people are familiar with – can help reduce agitation, anxiety, increase appetite and help with sleep.

With proper research, could memory loss be reversed by developing a new form of smell therapy to perhaps encourage memories to resurface and improve cognition and self-identity?

What do you have to say? Comment, share and like below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Nurse and Aged Care Worker Linked to Victorian Abattoir Outbreak Test Positive

Federal authorities will investigate a COVID-19 cluster at a Melbourne abattoir as the number of positive cases from the Cedar Meats outbreak reaches 69, including a nurse and an aged care worker. The nurse, was believed to have treated a Cedar Meats worker with a severed thumb during three consecutive shifts at the Sunshine Hospital... Read More

The Healing Benefits of Animals for the Elderly

If you’ve been lucky enough to have a pet, then you know just how much happiness they can bring. They can make you smile, listen to you, and provide comfort when you feel down. But they can do much more than providing emotional support. For the elderly in particular, animals can play an important role... Read More

Three takes on the issue of choice in death and dying

There was a time, not so long ago, when death was a taboo subject. Currently, however, the nature of our dying is increasingly being aired publicly from various perspectives as an issue of absorbing interest. Personally, there are those who are starting to choose to confront their fear of death rather than resorting to denial... Read More
Advertisement