• Simon O'Donovan

Fragrances - Guest Blog

My friend and colleague Jay Coakley, Therapy Technician, devised a CST session based on identifying fragrances and reminiscence. It was very well received in our ‘Cariad Dementia Cafe’ a couple of weeks ago.

What Jay did was to identify a series of everyday and some unusual smells and insert them into clean and empty used herb pots, covered in differently coloured papers. (Jay had to take great care not to include liquids or powders with toxin or allergen warnings.)

The pots, each containing a different fragrance, were numbered and passed around the tables, with members trying to guess at the smells and write down their guesses.

As correct answers were read out by Jay, time was given for members to comment on whether they liked the smell, what it reminded them of and what memories it evoked.

Here is a list of fragrances that were selected. (More liquid items were dabbed onto cotton wool balls and inserted in the empty pots.)

  • Johnson’s Baby Lotion

  • Old Spice

  • Curry Powder

  • Vanilla Extract

  • Lavender Floor Polish

  • Mint Extract

  • Rose Water

  • Orange Peel

  • Lemon Peel

  • Camp Coffee

  • Crushed Oxo Cube

  • Dairy Chocolate

  • Crushed Pine Needles

  • TCP

  • Vicks Chest Rub

  • Lily Of The Valley

  • Pledge Furniture Polish

  • Clove Oil

  • Dried Garlic

  • Parmesan Cheese

(Add your own fragrances as you wish.)

After guessing the fragrances, we looked at a ‘Daily Mail’ article Jay had found online about the power of smell which listed favourite and worst items. Members were asked to comment on whether they agreed with the top 5 list, namely:

  1. Freshly baked bread

  2. Bacon

  3. Freshly cut grass

  4. Coffee

  5. Cakes baking in the oven

... or whether they would choose something else from the list.

(Article link here )

Jay wanted readers to note if there is insufficient time to create your own smells box, there are pre-prepared boxes available at Amazon. One which we have previously used is ‘Le Lotto Des Odeurs’ or (English version) ‘Follow Your Nose Bingo Game’. But one should bear in mind these kits can dry out and lose fragrance after a time.

About Me

Simon O’Donovan MBE has worked in NHS Wales for most of his adult life, supporting people with dementia, their carers and families and developing and improving services to benefit this client group. 

He recently retired from working as a Community Mental Health Nurse within a Young Onset Dementia Service and continues to contribute to weekly CST 'Friendship Group' sessions as a volunteer co-facilitator.


He has been keeping a weekly 'Young Dementia CST Blog' to share and archive tried and tested activities resources, with the ultimate aim of providing an 'off the shelf' resource library of weekly themed CST sessions which can be used on rotation throughout the year. 


The main aim of this website is to share experience and resources freely, in order that others can dip in and out and use some or all of the materials provided in their own CST work. Thus it is hoped, facilitating and supporting the provision of uplifting and enjoyable sessions that optimise people with dementia's quality of life.

This site is not owned by or affiliated to any organisation. It’s a personal commitment, a not for profit exchange of ideas and a resource library which aims to enable more widespread use of CST approaches for people with dementia. 

To this end, 'Guest Blogs' are VERY welcome, but bearing in mind that no images of clients are to be used without their express written informed consent.

Please note that some images are reproduced on this blog from the internet under the 'fair use copyright' principle, in that they will only be used for educational purposes with disability groups and in no way will be linked to profit making activities.


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