The Influence of Scent on Senior Care Residents’ Health & Wellbeing

Fear of going into a care home (or ‘old people’s home’ as many people still say) is a very real thing, no matter where you are in the world.  A 2013 survey by Populus Data Solutions found that less than one in four adults would be willing to consider moving into a home if they become frail in old age.  There are many reasons behind this including boredom, fear of neglect and isolation; but illness is also a major factor.

With old age, comes the potential for a plethora of illnesses.  Nursing homes, palliative care homes and hospices will have staff on hand, but care homes and residential homes will be more reliant on visiting medical professionals, placing great importance on preventative health measures.

Enhancing Emotional Wellbeing Through Scent

The emotional state of residents in senior living facilities can have a direct effect on their physical health. When they are anxious, depressed, or upset, it can trigger a range of symptoms that can even exacerbate already poor health and lead to other complications.  Carefully chosen fragrances can be subtly introduced into care homes to help to alleviate stress and make residents feel that they are in a more relaxed, comfortable and homely environment.  Of all the senses, scent is the best sensory cue for pleasant memories1.  Studies have shown that people have a very real and visceral reaction to scent. The right smells can trigger memories and create a more pleasant experience for residents.

Combatting Malnutrition Through Scent

Malnutrition can be a serious problem at any age, but for the elderly it can be particularly dangerous.  Malnutrition affects over 10% of people over the age of 652.  In a recent study, the introduction of PremiumScenting into seven care homes saw malnutrition levels drop by 5% in six weeks when the scent of fresh bread was introduced before and during meal times.  The combination of environment, visually appealing meals and scent created a ‘multiplier effect’ thus stimulating appetite.

The Impact of Scent on Cognitive Functions in the Elderly

According to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Society, 80% of people living in care homes have a form of dementia or severe memory problems.  Researchers have found that people who took in the fragrance of cinnamon saw improvements in cognitive functions like visual-motor response, working memory and attention span3.

PremiumScenting’s Top Suggestions for Enhancing Resident Health and Wellbeing:

  • Spa Eucalyptus – A blend of watery melon and muguet, balanced with medicinal eucalyptus for a smooth yet therapeutic scent. Hints of sauna wood enhance the relaxing quality. Eucalyptus is commonly used to stimulate mental activity and increase blood flow to the brain.

  • Refreshing Lavender  – Lavender is widely known used for its relaxing aroma-therapeutic benefits.  It can be used to reduce the heart rate, making it ideal for environments needing a calm and soothing ambiance.  This fragrance has essences of French lavender, bergamot and clary sage blend to create a calming and peaceful environment.

  • Magic Garden – A floral oasis of dewy petals that awakens the senses. This is a delightful fragrance for those with memory loss – it is a chance to trigger emotions of walking in a garden or enjoying the smell of a fresh bouquet of flowers from years past.

  • Soft Veil – Offers a warm Tahitian vanilla aroma to help calm the senses.

Scent is the most emotive of our senses and with the right scenting program, care homes can achieve a wonderful balance of benefits to meet the emotional and physical needs of residents.

To find out more, download our care homes mini report at senior.ambius.com

Sources:

1 University Hospital Zurich, Associations to smell are more pleasant than to sound, Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 2001

2 Malnutrition among older people in the Community: policy recommendations for change European Nutrition for Health Alliance

3 Wheeling Jesuit University

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