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Have you heard that familiar adage? Stop and smell the roses? Simple scents can let your loved one in a nursing home know that comfort and family are near.

In Eat and Flourish: How Food Supports Emotional Well-Being¹ Mary Beth Albright writes

“The oldest model for inducing depression symptoms in animals is removing the olfactory bulbs; that’s how important smell is for emotional well-being. When mice can’t smell, changes in brain chemistry and behavior look very much like human depression. Further, loss of smell in humans is often followed by depression, as people feel isolated from smell of all familiar things that alert their minds that comfort is nearby.”

Nursing homes often have unpleasant smells, notably of urine or cleaning fluids.

A rosemary or lavender bush; rose, balsam, pine, vanilla, lemon, sea breeze and cinnamon scented room fresheners, sachets, creams and lotions (the nursing home may not allow candles) and gifts of the smells of home such as comfort foods and chocolate chip cookies (which seem to be universal) can remind the person of happier places and times and remind them that comfort, and we, are near.

¹ (New York: Countryman Press, 2023), p. 47


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, CELA, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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