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April 22, 2023 4 min read

On April 1st, I participated on a panel discussion on the subject of "Scent As A Therapy" at the Esxence Exhibition in Milan, Italy and I was honored to participate, since scent as a therapy has been my focus since 2016.  Everyone is aware that we wear perfume and cologne to help us accessorize our fashion or enhance our emotional mindset for the day when we exit homes for work, a date, or just to feel lifted for whatever mood or state of mind we desire to have, whether it's for the feeling of empowerment, to be romanced, fresh, clean, and, get where I'm going with this. We also use cleaning products for our home to make the task a bit more enjoyable as well don't we? Who enjoys cleaning windows without the smell of the Windex Blue scent that I helped develop when I was at IFF? 

Scent as a therapy is a "niche" category that will certainly grow within time. It's an area I decided to focus on after my mother died of dementia-related causes in 2016.  Through research and my own experience as a scent designer, I connected facts and dots and I started the development of Essential Awakenings® Smell And Memory Activities and kits:  Scent recalls memories, memory-recall facilitates stories, and stories being shared with others create social interaction. By doing some research on dementia and Alzheimer's, and speaking to neuroscientists, Dr. Ottavio Arancio of Columbia Medical and Dr. Rachel Herz of Brown University,  I clearly understood the connection of scent and taste being the same sensory function and that sweet and salty were the last of the elements of taste to be experience for someone with the disease.  This was proof in my own mother who only liked sweet or salty foods. Without a good sense of smell, your taste buds are not as sharp either, and I love food.  If I can't smell nature, flowers, the world around me, and even danger that triggers the fight or flight instinct, I do not feel "whole". If I cannot enjoy food, life is dull and I would be an absolute emotional mess. 

For my Milan trip, I packed a light weekender, a 2-inch file of research and notes and of course, Essential Awakenings® and MindScent® kits. I arrived on a sunny, beautiful day 2 days before the panel discussion so I could take walks, clear my jet lag and focus on the discussion. Milan, like other Italian cities I've travelled are a feast for the eyes, and I am a lover of ancient architecture--especially churches-- but I got my first orientation in the neighborhood where Esxence was located, and saved the ancient portions for after the panel. 

My co-panelist was Marta Siembab from Poland spoke largely about the research being done in Europe, with much focused on conditions such as anosmia, parosmia and issues how scent is being used to help people not only induce an appetite to gain weight and be nourished, but to loose weight. A lot of research is also being done on how the environment can cause issues with our sense of smell. In added that there are also tests done in the US on the environment's negative effects on health and some possible correlations to Alzheimers. The audience was most interested in hearing about my efforts giving Essential Awakenings® Smell and Memory sessions at assisted living communities in the NY metropolitan area and now at Respite Care Atlanta where I now live. I also included why Speech Pathologists are now using MindScent® for an added sensory stimuli in their work with people who have developmental and speech communication impairments and shared a video from my YouTube Channel (the link will be below). Some of the MindScent® methods for use were discussed and include: Increased engagement, establishing rapport, stimulating the appetite, teaching vocabulary, increased length of utterance, increasing socialization of peers, increased use of descriptors, and presenting smell during coma therapy to induce arousal. 

Scent as a therapy will grow, but it will take time as we are just now exiting out of a global pandemic where activities and in-person therapies were discontinued. There were times in the past few years when I thought I'd have to give up on my mission, but having the support of friends, speech pathologists and recreational/program directors has surely kept me going. Here are some of my favorite quotes that have also kept me going: 

From the children's book, Little Engine That Could:  "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can." 

Babe Ruth:  "Never let the fear of striking out get in your way."

Martin Luther King, Jr:  "If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."

Below is a link to a video on my YouTube Channel shown at the Esxence Exhibit in Milan, April 1, 2023 of seniors living with dementia singing the Marseillaise after talking about the smell of baguettes in France:

A video using the aroma a bread by Speech Pathologist, Angela DeRuvo of New York:

Enjoy your weekend everyone! If you have any questions about how you can use Essential Awakenings® or MindScent® for people who you love, treat, or service, my email is on my website!  - Ruth




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