It’s a consistent feeling of being lost, or having lost something important. As you wake up each morning, glimmers at the edge of your mind tell you something is not quite right, but you cannot place it. The people that surround you seem familiar sometimes, but mostly you’re unsure if you’re supposed to trust them. Your whole life, familiarity has wrapped its warmth around you in times of need, yet now, it’s comfort cannot be found. This is the life for roughly 5.2 million seniors in America, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. And the confusion and pain that paints their faces reaches out to ravage their loved ones. This is a disease that affects much more than the brain.
“In 2012, 15.4 million caregivers provided more than 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $216 billion,” explains the latest facts and figures published by the Alzheimer’s Association. The cost for Alzheimer’s care only goes up from there. Although massive research has been conducted, and remains ongoing, into establishing the cause, we still are unsure how to stop or limit the progression of memory and reasoning deterioration. Right now, the best thing caregivers and families can do is try to soothe the incessant feeling of anxiety in their loved ones.
And an exciting, although not so surprising, recent finding is the incredible power of smell as therapy aids for Alzheimer’s patients. Since smells are processed through the long term memory part of the brain, introducing familiar, yet simple, smells can alleviate anxiety and even draw out a soothing experience of nostalgia for those with severe short term memory issues.
It’s certain that this finding is monumental. Incorporating scenting generators into facilities that specialize in dementia patients could not only lower anxiety, but introduce an ambiance of comfort and familiarity. In an age where Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death; where 1 in 3 seniors die with some form of dementia; finding effective treatments is essential. Until then, therapies that utilize smells can be a bridge between years of depression and anxiety to a state of healthy coping. And who knows, it could possibly be the building blocks to a cure.