We discover top tips and dementia-friendly product suggestions from Unforgettable expert panel member and scent expert, Linda Harman

Who are you?

My name is Linda Harman and I’m one of the Founder Directors of ReminiScent. I am passionate about the power of scent and the role that the senses play in wellbeing. We have created Smell & Connect cards, sensory cards that are impregnated with distinctive smells that are designed to trigger memory and spark conversation for those affected by dementia.

What expertise can you bring to the Unforgettable panel?

After a long career in the fragrance industry, I now hope to inspire and encourage the use of scent in dementia care.

Do you have a personal interest in dementia?

My mother has dementia and, as a fragrance enthusiast, I used scent to bring her moments of pleasure and to strengthen our relationship as communication has become more challenging.

Smell & Connect was inspired by the experience of caring. The scents that we develop are not fragrances, though some of them are essential oils. They are smells from life that have the power to provoke instant reaction. Everyone has, stored in their brain, powerful associations with smells from their childhood, special moments or places. For my mother, the sulphurous smell of a struck match is an instant reminder of her father lighting a cigarette, the scent of a flower or herb is a momentary indulgence that takes me away from the pressures of life, whilst grated nutmeg is the smell of Christmas past. The sense of smell has the power to connect us to each other as well as the past.

If a family carer asked you for advice on what could help improve the quality of life for their mother or father who has just been diagnosed with dementia, what would you say?

Dementia causes increasing isolation. Taking time to share experiences is the most valuable thing that relatives and carers can do to help people to feel better about themselves and their situation. Smell & Connect cards can be used to start conversation or to just provoke a reaction – providing an enjoyable sensory and cognitive activity that can be a channel for revisiting memories. Taking time to “stop and smell the roses” is especially important when dealing with dementia. The increasing impact on cognition can make following conversations difficult. The sense of smell, however, is intuitive and can be enjoyed together.

What would your advice be for what they should do now and how they can best prepare for the journey ahead?

Research suggests that the sense of smell can be exercised to be maintained or even improved. I encourage you to use scent, alongside the other senses, to strengthen the relationship with your relative or friend with dementia. Use scented products to make people feel pampered – everyone loves to feel cared for; even a simple hand massage will do the trick. Use smells to remember happy times or favourite places.

Linda with some of her Smell & Connect cards Linda with some of her Smell & Connect cards

What products would you recommend to help a person caring for someone with dementia?

1. Doro Memory Plus 319i phone
This phone enables longer independent living. It promotes easy access to support if needed and security for family members to know that they can be reached. It’s very simple to use – recognition of faces stays longer than names and numbers.
Suitable for mid stage dementia

2. Air Wick Purple Lavender plug-in
These use lavender essential oil and can be plugged in discretely, to emit relaxing scents. It lasts for 3-4 weeks on a low/medium setting and promotes more relaxed behaviour and better sleep.
Suitable for late stage dementia

3. Smell & Connect cards
These provide a simple and effective selection of smells that can be used by family members or carers to provoke reaction and engage with people through the exchange of memories and associations.
Suitable for mid stage dementia

4. Make your own Facebook
We used a pocket notebook and photographs with our names written underneath to help identify ourselves to my mother's carers. Christened "Grandma's Facebook" it lived in her handbag for quite a while and helped her to communicate as well as elevating the frustration of not being able to remember names or describe who we were to other people.
Suitable for early stage dementia

5. Memoboard or calendar
Helps orientation for the person and serves as a prompt to remember important information such as expected visitors. Large, clear format is good. Memo board can also be used to support communication between family and carers.
Suitable for late stage dementia

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