Can Olfactory Enrichment Improve Memory Loss?

Can Olfactory Enrichment Improve Memory Loss?

Dear Donna:

My mom was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. At this point, we are trying to learn more about the disease and if there is anything we can do to slow the progression. We are also trying to plan for her current and future care needs. It feels like a lot.

I recently caught the very end of a radio interview about using different smells to treat Alzheimer’s. It also covered how the sense of smell may be linked to neurological conditions, like dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Are you aware of any credible research on this topic? I’m trying to explore every avenue I can.


Elise in Pittsford Township, MI

Can Smells Impact Alzheimer’s?

Dear Elise:

While it sounds like you are on the right track in understanding and preparing for your mom’s long-term needs, it is understandable that you are feeling overwhelmed. It can be so much for families.

You’ve asked a great question regarding how smells may impact Alzheimer’s. It’s an interesting topic, for sure. Researchers have long believed the loss of smell, whether caused by environmental factors, age, sinus problems, or something else, can increase a person’s risk for certain neurological conditions. Those range from Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s to schizophrenia.

The olfactory system, which is responsible for the sense of smell, is comprised of the nostrils, the ethmoid bone, the nasal cavity, and layers of tissue that line the nasal cavity. The olfactory system is also directly connected to the body’s limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for memory and emotion.

This proximity is one reason researchers are so interested in exploring the topic. One of the most recent studies is from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Its lead researcher is Dr. Michael Leon, Professor Emeritus of the Institute of Memory Impairment & Disorders at UCI. He has been studying memory loss for over three decades.

Leon believes aging and memory go hand-in-hand with a sense of smell. It’s thought that as the ability to smell is diminished or lost completely, the brain is at risk for a host of health problems. While his team’s study was too small to reach a solid conclusion, the preliminary findings are encouraging.

People who received olfactory enrichment in the form of seven different diffused essential oils showed significant improvements in verbal learning and memory. In fact, when using the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), the enrichment group showed a 226% difference in performance.

You can find and read the full study, “Overnight olfactory enrichment using an odorant diffuser improves memory and modifies the uncinate fasciculus in older adults,” online. It was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience on July 24, 2023.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have any more questions.

Kind regards,


Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Having a thoughtfully-designed, controlled environment helps adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia live their best quality of life. At Heritage Senior Communities, we offer specialized dementia care at our Michigan communities. Our person-centered approach to care includes dedicated programs, such as for dining services and life enrichment activities.

If you are searching for a memory care community for a Michigan loved one, we invite you to call the Heritage memory care community nearest you. One of our team members will be happy to arrange a tour and answer any questions you may have!

How to Make New Friends after Moving to a Senior Community

How to Make New Friends after Moving to a Senior Community

Dear Donna:

I’m planning to relocate to a senior living community this summer. While I live in Florida now, my search is taking me to the Holland, Michigan, area to be closer to my daughter and her family. It will make it easier for us to be more involved in one another’s lives.

I’ve been considering this move for a while and feel it’s a good decision. However, I’ve been a resident of Florida for almost 30 years. Nearly all of my friends are here, as are my doctors, my church, and my volunteer work. The idea of starting over is daunting. Do you have some ideas to make rebuilding my social circle easier? It might help me prepare for this next chapter in life.



Tips for Making New Friends after Moving to a Senior Living Community

Dear Elizabeth:

First, it sounds like you have much to look forward to, especially being closer to your grandkids! And Holland, Michigan, is such a lovely area of the country to call home. But I understand how intimidating it may seem. Preparing ahead of time, like you are doing, is a great idea. Just in case you aren’t sure how to start your search, these tips might be helpful.

As far as rebuilding your social circle after a move to a senior living community, I do have a few ideas that I hope will be useful.

  • Explore communities convenient to family.

Since you mentioned that you are just beginning your search for a senior community, my first suggestion is to carefully consider the location. While proximity to your daughter and her family shouldn’t be the top or only priority, it should be high on your list. That will make it easier for you to visit and help with the grandkids and for them to be involved in activities at your community.

  • Research the Holland area online.

Another tip is to spend time online researching the Holland area. You already have the advantage of your daughter living there, but exploring opportunities of interest to you is important. For example, since you mentioned that you are currently involved in volunteer work, you could look around online to see which organizations might be looking for help. It’s also a good way to look up churches, doctors, and more.

  • Get on newsletter and email lists.

Ask all of the senior living communities that you are seriously considering to put you on their lists to receive their newsletters and event information. While the distance will obviously prevent you from attending activities and programs, it will give you a chance to learn more about what happens each day. That will give you a head start once you move and are ready to participate in activities. If you do make personal visits to the communities before making a decision, which we always recommend, plan to attend an event or two when you are in town.

  • Be patient but also put yourself out there.

My last suggestion is to give yourself time to settle in, but to also take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. That might include enjoying a cup of coffee in a common area of the community with neighbors or joining a morning stretching class. If you are a little hesitant to attend activities and events on your own, ask the life enrichment team to introduce you to neighbors who might share your interests. You could also invite family members to join you for a program.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you, Elizabeth. And I’d like to encourage you to keep Heritage Senior Communities in the Holland area on your list. One of our team members will be happy to take you on a tour, answer any questions you might have, and invite you to one of our daily life enrichment activities.

Kind regards,


How Seniors Can Stay Safe Shopping Online

How Seniors Can Stay Safe Shopping Online

Online shopping has become a convenience many people rely on and take advantage of almost daily. It’s so easy to order whatever you need from the comfort of your sofa and have it all delivered right to your front porch. As more shopping malls and discount stores are shuttered due to decreasing foot traffic, online bargain hunting has become a necessity. That means learning how to shop safely online is important.

For those who are less tech-savvy, it’s easy to fall into traps that can cost you a lot of money. Research shows as many as 50% of Americans who shop online have experienced a cyber hack. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates people over the age of 65 lost $3.1 billion in 2022 alone.

What can you do to protect yourself while shopping online? We have a few tips that might help you stay safe.

Be On Guard Against Online Shopping Scams

  • Use credit cards, never debit cards.

Debit cards might help you avoid overspending, but they can also put your bank account at risk for hacking and fraud. This is especially true when shopping online. If you pay for an order by debit card and the site is a scam, a thief can empty your financial account before you realize something is wrong. While your bank will usually return the funds eventually, your accounts may be frozen until the investigation is complete. In contrast, when you use a credit card to make a purchase from an illegitimate website, the credit card company will usually take quick action to protect your account.

  • Stick to stores you know and trust.

Social media is another way criminals target people for fraud. Scammers buy ads featuring attractive clothing, vacations, and household items for too-good-to-be-true prices. People click on the links not realizing they aren’t legitimate companies. Shoppers’ products never arrive, their credit card numbers are stolen, or both. Avoid this problem by making online purchases only from stores you know and trust, such as those you’ve visited in person. Also, be sure you go directly to the store’s website using a Google search. Never click on and follow links you receive via email or on social media, no matter how realistic they look.

  • Check site security before ordering.

Another essential safety tip for online ordering is to verify the website is secure. It’s fairly easy to do. Check to make sure the site’s web address begins with “https” and has a tiny icon of a lock next to it. That combination signals a site is secure. If you don’t see that lock or the “s” after “http,” it’s best to avoid shopping on the site. Doing so might put you at risk for identity theft or other types of financial scams.

  • Monitor financial accounts.

Finally, make it a habit to check your financial accounts regularly. That might mean not setting up your accounts to pay bills automatically. When you do so, it’s tempting to skip routinely reviewing online statements. That could lead to fraudulent activity being unnoticed for months. Apply this practice to credit cards, investment accounts, and banking. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of alert systems most financial institutions have available. You can set up notifications so you are contacted by phone or text when a major charge is made, an account balance reaches a pre-set limit, or there is a login from a new device.

Bookmark the Heritage Blog

If you found this article to be of interest, we encourage you to bookmark this blog and visit often. Each week, we share a new post on topics ranging from caregiving and healthy aging to dementia and senior care.

How Can I Make the Spring Time Change Easier on a Spouse with Alzheimer’s?

How Can I Make the Spring Time Change Easier on a Spouse with Alzheimer’s?

Dear Donna:

My husband was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s almost two years ago. So far, I’ve been able to manage his disease at home. Recently, however, he’s started trying to leave home. It mostly happens in the evening. While our home security system alerted me both times he exited our house, I know I have to be vigilant.

I’ve read the statistics about wandering and how dangerous it is for people with Alzheimer’s, so I’m trying to be as proactive as possible. I ordered a GPS watch that my husband wears all the time now. In the event the worst does happen, it will help me locate him quickly.

I have a question about something that was mentioned in my Alzheimer’s caregiver support group. Several caregivers have noticed that the time changes in fall and spring seem to exacerbate their loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease. Thinking back, last fall’s time change might have been challenging for my husband, too. I didn’t make the connection then.

As the spring time change gets closer, I’m wondering if there are steps I can take to make it easier for my husband. Any advice would be much appreciated.


Meghan in Scio Township, MI

Helping a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Navigate the Time Change

Dear Meghan:

Great question! It’s one we’ve been asked before and we always appreciate the opportunity to share tips to help families manage the seasonal time change.

While many people find the time change difficult to adjust to, it can be much more challenging for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Here are some suggestions you might find useful:

What Kinds of Senior Care Will the Veterans Benefits Pay For?

What Kinds of Senior Care Will the Veterans Benefits Pay For?

Dear Donna:

My mom is almost 80 years old and starting to require more help than our family can manage in her home. My husband, children, and I have been providing support to my mom every day for over two years now. She needs assistance with household tasks, transportation, meal preparation, and laundry. Some days, mom even needs a helping hand to take a shower and do her hair.

My father passed away several years ago, and he was a veteran. I’ve been told there is a special benefit that veterans and surviving spouses can qualify for, but I’m not familiar with it. While my mother and father were always good at managing their money, my mom lives on a fairly tight retirement budget.

We hope to find some financial assistance to help pay for in-home care for her while we search for an assisted living community. What types of care does this benefit cover and would my mom qualify?


Theresa in Williamsburg, MI

Learn More about the Aid and Attendance Benefit

Dear Theresa:

I’m glad you wrote to me about this benefit that helps qualifying veterans and surviving spouses connect with the senior care they need. It isn’t very well known, so it is frequently overlooked.

Let me start by saying it sounds as if your family is on the right track. People often use home care services as a short-term solution. It provides support that gives families time to look for an assisted living community that best meets their senior loved one’s needs.

In addition to assisted living communities and nursing care centers, home care services may be covered by the VA Aid and Attendance benefit. That’s because having professional caregivers visit the senior’s home to perform tasks such as bathing, grooming, meal preparation, laundry, and light housekeeping improves safety, health, and quality of life.

Requirements for Aid and Attendance Benefit

To qualify on the physical needs side of the benefit, the veteran or surviving spouse must meet at least one of the following physical requirements:

  • Need another person to assist with everyday tasks, such as grooming, meal preparation, bathing, and dressing.
  • Be bedridden or spend long periods of time in bed due to an illness or disability.
  • Be a patient in a nursing home due to a disability that led to the loss of physical or mental abilities.
  • Have limited eyesight, such as 5/200 with glasses or contacts or a concentric contraction of visual field to 5 or fewer degrees.

Answering how a veteran or surviving spouse qualifies to receive additional money through the Aid and Attendance benefit is a little tougher. There are income and net worth limits, dates of service requirements, as well as other factors. One of the Heritage team members can likely walk you through this part of the process.

I hope this information is useful to you, Theresa. I invite you to call one of our Heritage Senior Communities locations near your Michigan home. We’ll be happy to schedule an in-person meeting to answer your questions about this benefit and assisted living.

Kind regards,