While MindScent® Smell.Discover.Connect kit was initially developed for SLPs and educators, it can also be a great learning and discovery activity the entire family can enjoy together during this challenging time of "Stay Home, Stay Safe".
The MindScent® area was abuzz and I think that all attendees enjoyed reading the various comments by others before them. One response that triggered my own memory was for the smell of bread: "smells like the bread at Macaroni Grill" --where I often took my girls for family night out while living in Middletown, NJ. I'm not sure if that Macaroni Grill is still on Highway 35, but we sure enjoyed the smell and taste of their homemade bread!
The holiday shopping season is here, and I'll be showcasing MindScent® and Essential Awakenings® sensory tool kits at this week's WBDC's Pop Up Shop in Stamford, Connecticut. Even though I've developed MindScent® and Essential Awakenings® for Speech, Occupational and Recreational Therapists, families can also benefit and have fun playing smell and tell, or guessing games. MindScent® also includes fact cards great for learning. For instance, did you know that the Providence, RI metro area has been cited as having the most donut shops per capita with 25.3 shops per 100,000 people? And that it takes almost 3 years for a single pineapple to reach maturation?
My quest to develop the Essential Awakenings® Smell.Recall.Connect as the first aroma-based activity for caregivers, families and Assisted Living Communities helping seniors living with dementia has been a long road, but I can now say that what I have developed is definitely showing results and bringing joy to seniors in a big way. Even though the original plan was to provide smell prompts to recall memories, its purpose and outcome has broadened and it has become a vehicle for a social activity that facilitates conversation and storytelling. According to the Cleveland Clinic, studies show that people who stay connected with the most social interaction experience the slowest rate of memory decline, and that "a rich social network provides sources of support, reduces stress, combats depression and enhances intellectual stimulation." Essential Awakenings® was a project of passion-with-a-purpose that was spawned after my mother died of dementia- related causes in 2016, but the seed for a sensory-based activity for seniors had already been planted years before, when I realized I saw loneliness and desperation in the eyes of my mother and others living in the Assisted Communities where she lived for over 7 years until her death. The Essential Awakenings® Smell.Recall.Connect development required endless hours of planning, research, and walking the walk. I started giving smelling sessions at communities in my area in 2017, and whenever I travelled, I made advance cold-calls to communities in my destination to schedule sessions. By doing so, I have been able to bring the magic of aroma to seniors living in New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Florida! It was through this process that I was able to determine just which aromas would resonate the best by garnering the most conversation and positive memories. I endured many sleepless nights of worrying of the chance of success, and there were days where my nerves were often on edge because I knew I would be taking a sizable financial risk if I were to go forward in manufacturing. I almost decided to call it quits, but realized that I had come so far, with so much work already behind me and knew I was enriching the lives of a countless number of people along the way, that one day I just decided to "just do it". As Shark Barbara Corcoran has said, "Creating a business is all about taking risks." So I proceeded to dig into my personal funds, took a deep breath, and marched forward with production one step at a time. To this date, I have given more than 80 smelling sessions with more than 1000 people in attendance and have sold kits as far away as Singapore and New Zealand. So what are the actual benefits are for this new activity for seniors? Besides building the awareness of the value of our sense of smell, seniors share memories, interact in conversation regarding these memories and tell stories of their family traditions, vacations, experiences growing up or even tell us about their favorite perfume. The point is, they are connecting with each other. As an example, I'm including anecdotes and testimonials from some of the most remarkable moments from Essential Awakenings® sessions: "My sense of smell helped save my life in Vietnam." - As told by Tim in a smelling session at Riverhouse Senior Center in Cos Cob, CT When smelling mint, Vince R. of ComForCare Agency in Stamford, CT said: "This takes me back to my honeymoon in Morocco." When I asked him when he last talked about mint tea in Morocco, he responded "26 years ago." "It is really a successful tool to create a conversation....and to engage the staff with the ladies. Karlette said the pine smelled like her grandmother’s bathroom in Jamaica. She did not expect to be so moved. This memory got the ladies talking about grandmothers. It is a very profound experience.” Thank you for getting it for us. - Donna Booth, Program Manager, Abilis, Greenwich, CT “Our elders living in our home have enjoyed...