According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million Americans currently live with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, making the need for specialized memory care centers more crucial than ever. Memory care centers have proven effective in helping individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s cope with their illness and live a fuller life. One of the tools influencing that success is a memory care scent program.
A memory care scent program uses the powerful sense of smell, which connects to the limbic center of the brain where memories are stored. By connecting scent to memories, memory care centers are able to help transition residents through the normal rhythms of each day.
Scent, along with other sensory stimulation techniques, can be programmed to help residents wake up and prepare for their day, develop a heartier appetite during lunch, and even encourage rest and relaxation in the evening.
These programs have been shown to:
• Improve quality of life
• Reduce speed of decline
• Reduce behavioral problems
• And motivate family members to visit more
Here’s how a memory care scent program might be prescribed for a typical day in a memory care center.
It’s healthier physically, psychologically and emotionally for residents to have as normal of a routine as possible, so getting up at a reasonable time in the morning is important.
Once residents are awake, they have to get dressed and prepare for breakfast.
Several scents or scent categories can help toward that end. Citrus, peppermint and cinnamon scents contain properties that energize, encourage clear thinking and motivate residents toward a more optimistic morning.
Here’s a breakdown on what each scent or scent category can do:
Citrus: (Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit)
• Promotes concentration and a sense of community
• Contains antiviral and antibacterial properties by boosting the immune system and improving circulation
• Reduces stress as proven by some healthcare facilities, which documented stress reduction levels of up to 40 percent.
• Stimulates the mind and calms nerves
• Boosts energy, concentration and clear thinking
• Promotes alertness and a sense of purpose
• Helps combat mental fatigue, improve concentration and focus
• Improves cognitive functions such as visual-motor response, working memory and attention span as shown by a Wheeling Jesuit University study
• Produce feelings of joy while reducing drowsiness and irritability.
Memory care center residents waking up to the scent of citrus, peppermint or cinnamon should feel more energized, alert and ready to get their day started.
And a positive morning experience can make all the difference in how well the rest of their day goes.
One of the most common effects of memory loss is poor appetite, which results in poor nutrition and weight loss.
Food scents can help counteract loss of appetite or forgetting to eat by acting as a stimulator – or reminder – of the pleasure that food offers.
• The scent of such familiar foods as popcorn or chocolate chip cookies acts as an ‘appetite attractor’, helping stimulate the appetite.
• The familiar scent of vanilla helps memory care patients feel nostalgic, brings them comfort, and makes them feel at home. This encourages recall of pleasurable memories around the dinner table.
• Even a scent as unlikely as ginger can help increase appetite and promote good eating habits.
Every extra bite of food that residents eat means better nutrition. And better nutrition means better health and a higher quality of life.
Another common effect of memory loss is the occurrence of ‘sundowning’, characterized by confused and agitated behavior. Research shows that sundowning is actually just brain fatigue, which is helped by taking a nap and/or getting plenty of sleep at night.
Scents that help residents relax and sleep include lavendar and bergamot. These scents have soothing properties and promote calm.
• Encourages rest and relaxation
• Promotes calm and helps with balancing strong emotions
• Helps with depression, anger and irritability
• Relieves anxiety, agitation, mild depression and stress
• Discourages insomnia
Sleep and rest are one of the most important things memory care residents can do to stay healthy.
Scent helps makes that possible.
Thanks to new state-of-the-art scent diffusion systems, scent programs in memory care centers can be more effective than ever.
According to Bryant Wilson, CEO of Aroma Impressions based in Shreveport, LA, cold-air diffusion scent machines atomize oils, convert them into invisible molecules and scent the desired space.
“These systems are programmed to control scent dispersal over targeted areas, enabling memory care centers to achieve specific objectives using strategic scents,” he says.
By 2050, the number of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is projected to rise to 14 million.
But creative treatment advances such as memory care scent programs, offer hope and a way to cope with these debilitating diseases.
To find out how scent can help your memory care patients, give us a call at 800.492.9030 and let’s talk.