Quickest Way to the Heart Is Through the…Nose?

aromas and the brain

The scent of chimney smoke on an autumn night, a pot roast on the stove, Sunday gravy, fresh-mown grass, baking bread. By reading these words and recalling these smells, we experience the powerful connection between aromas and the brain. Chances are the mere act of reading about these familiar smells evoked memories and emotions.

Smell Connected to Brain

This isn’t poetry, it’s biology. Our sense of smell is connected to the limbic system, the oldest part of our brain. Eons ago, our sense of smell was key for knowing when it was time to eat, to sleep, to run, to fight, and even to reproduce. Over time, the human brain has become more sophisticated, adding complex reasoning and language abilities. Nevertheless, our sense of smell can still bypass this more modern brain and evoke a physical response, long before we have “thought” our way there.

Using Aromas In Caregiving

The power of smell can be very valuable in caregiving situations. Often, when working with individuals who are anxious, have cognitive challenges, or are struggling with disorientation, the strategic use of smell can trigger memories of safety and comfort.

The web site Senior Care Corner encourages caregivers to experiment with scent when working with clients:

”Aromas, familiar scents and the smell of familiar food cooking can bring back memories; both good and bad, for our senior loved ones. Being able to capitalize on these familiar aromas may be able to help family caregivers keep the mood upbeat and the day calm.”

Aroma is a powerful tool for evoking feelings of calm, comfort and ease. The beauty of this approach is that it engages the individuals in our care in a personal and meaningful way. You can begin by asking a few simple questions like, “Where did you grow up?” or “What was the favorite thing you ate as a child?” or “What did you love cooking for your family?” Your sleuthing will provide clues about the kinds of smells that will be calming and comforting.

Non-Food Aromas

And, scent does not always have to come from food. Caregivers can experiment in many different ways. Open the windows on a spring day, bring in a handful of pine needles in winter, or experiment with aromatherapy oils like lavender or citrus.


At David York Agency, we are always on the lookout and dedicated to understanding and implementing the best and most effective techniques in home healthcare. If you are in need of full or part-time in-home care services, we can help.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate home caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best. Our aim is to provide you with the assistance your loved one needs as he or she ages. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.