Thursday, March 31, 2022

One Deep Thought from Two Different Sources


If anyone was/is a caregiver for a dementia patient, this could be triggering.  If that's the case, skip to the final paragraph for a small way you may be able to improve the quality of life of the person being cared for.

The other day we were watching this show on Netflix called 100 Humans.  It takes 100 people from different age groups, backgrounds, etc and does social experiments on them (that are usually highly skewed) and give you the results of their findings.  One of them in the last episode was "do old people have a smell?"  The funny thing is I stumbled upon something similar to that earlier in the day online and it is a very interesting reason as to why it is and how to combat it.  I'll give you a more reputable link here.  The 100 humans were blindfolded and asked to sniff two different rooms to see if they could smell old people vs young.  They could but really only after exercise.

Later that night we watched the newest episode of This Is Us and as you know, Rebecca is going on her dementia journey.  This has been incredibly painful to relive bringing up all kinds of trauma associated with my grandma's decline and eventual death from the disease.  I remember the days after diagnosis of taking all of the pictures like we were going to shove a lifetime of what she had left into photos before you could physically see the decline and pretend we hadn't wasted opportunities over the years.  Nothing quite prepares you for the day you see the picture you took and the soul of what made them who they are visibly absent in their eyes.  It is a feeling that will gut you to your core.

As we were finishing up the episode and seeing 'old Rebecca' and it reminded me of the earlier show and the "old person smell."  I said aloud how one of the worst things was the death of her smell while she was still alive.  She very much had a particular smell to her...a light whiff of White Rain hairspray and White Diamonds perfume.  The house smelled like it when you walked in and you would know blindfolded that you were at Grandma's by that smell alone.  She didn't smell like an old lady to me, it just smelled like her like it had for so many decades.  When she began to decline and family and caregivers took over her care, they stopped giving her a spritz of perfume and her hair wasn't getting done anymore except when it looked particularly bad they'd fill in the holes from laying on the pillow but no hairspray.  I remember the day I walked into the house and I couldn't smell her anymore.  I almost had to turn around and walk outside.  Now it smelled only like her husband whose smell I compared to a decades old sleeper sofa in a cabin and the Mr said I was spot on.  I was able to keep it together for the time we were there but as soon as we got into the car to leave I said "the house doesn't smell like her anymore...she's gone" and burst into tears.  It affected me profoundly.

I wondered what kind of mental effect that might've had on her to have a light spray of her favorite perfume.  To smell like herself and her signature scent.  Our senses have such a huge role in the way our brain processes things and I wonder if that would've brought her some pleasure to have that familiar scent and have one thing that she could still hold on to but couldn't ask for.  I love how doctors always tell the family how "they don't know what's going on" but the truth is, that is said to comfort families.  No one has come back from dementia to recover to say "I don't remember a single thing about that time."  It's a hypothesis and one I don't completely buy.   I would sob some nights thinking of her being completely coherent on the inside and not able to express it on the outside.  Screaming "why can't anyone understand me!?  Why aren't you hearing the words I think I'm saying?"  She would have this look on her face sometimes like she was in so much pain (she, like me, was sensitive to sound) and when I would say something to others, it would get brushed off like she was fine.  How did they know she was fine?  Because they wanted to believe it?  Because she couldn't tell them she wasn't even though she was visibly agitated??  

I think back to those days after this realization with smell and familiarity and I wish on holidays at least, I would've thought to put a little perfume on her wrist to see if she liked it.  I wish I could've given her something like that that would've brought her comfort in a way we all missed.  If anyone is going through dementia with someone they love, maybe suggest doing this if their loved one had a particular lotion or perfume/cologne they wore.  It keeps their house smelling like theirs for a lot longer and I have to imagine gives even a slight boost or moment of happiness which they so desperately deserve.  

Follow me on Bloglovin. Some posts may contain affiliate links that help keep this blog running at no cost to you.  See the Disclaimer page for more info.

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing insight when you think about it. Obviously, there would be no way to know if it makes the person with dementia feel any better, but I would sure like to think it makes a difference. Smells are so much a part of our lives and our memories that I just think it would have made a huge difference for all of us.


Thanks for taking the time to comment! I appreciate your time! (Heads up though...disrespectful or spam comments will be deleted.)