How Scent Can Help Memory Care Patients Regain Appetite

If you work in a senior care facility you know that one of the primary challenges of patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s is loss of appetite, which can lead to dangerous conditions such as malnutrition and unhealthy weight loss.


Appetite can be affected by a number of memory loss-related conditions such as:

  • Depression
  • Loss of ability to recognize food
  • Lack of exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of taste
  • Difficulty in chewing, swallowing or eating independently


While each of these factors can result from memory loss, one thing is for sure: loss of appetite can lead to serious health issues, which may affect quality of life and even life itself.


A Solution: Scent

Some senior care memory centers are using a new solution to overcome loss of appetite in patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. That solution is called ‘scent’ and

it is helping those with memory loss increase their appetite and enjoy healthier lives.

A study performed by Barbara Bauer, clinical nutrition program manager at Sharp Coronado Hospital, tracked 50 patients who were experiencing symptoms of appetite loss. Staff applied a scent called ‘Citrus Bliss’ to patient coverings during two meals each day. Most of the 50 patients stopped losing weight.  In addition, six of the seven patients on steroidal appetite stimulants were able to stop their medication and maintain their weight.

Through this study which gained national attention, Bauer found that, “The use of pure essential oils complements traditional medicine and may stimulate appetite, energize, and promote relaxation in elderly patients. I’ve seen many elderly patients improve to the point where they no longer need appetite stimulants and their sleep medications are decreased.”


What scents increase appetite?

Specific scents are known to help stimulate appetite in memory loss patients.

Those scents include:

  • Citrus
  • Cardamom
  • Bergamot
  • Ginger
  • Caraway
  • Roman chamomile
  • Spearmint
  • Peppermint


How Scent Works

Scientific studies have shown that the sense of smell is connected to the memory center of the brain (the limbic system), which can recognize thousands of scents, recalling both good and bad memories associated with them.

New scenting technology uses high-quality aroma oils and cold air diffusion systems that enable fragrances to be dispersed evenly and over large spaces. These systems atomize high quality aroma oils, convert them into molecules and disperse them throughout the environment.

Thousands of scents and scent combinations are available.  Scents that are scientifically proven to connect with the brain’s memory center and help influence stress levels, mood, energy levels and even appetite, as shown in Bauer’s study.


Scent Offers Hope

To be sure, treating dementia and Alzheimer’s is an uphill climb. But an increase in appetite is no small victory and can mean the difference between a higher quality of life versus a steady decline in health.

To find out how scent can help your memory care patients, give us a call at 800.492.9030 and let’s talk.