Perfume ads: Olfactory Sensory Tool???
We’ve all met people who are allergic to perfume or don’t tolerate it well. This post isn’t for them. But for those who do tolerate smells, including chemical smells such as perfumes, beauty catalogs are often filled with perfume scent ads. I was absentmindedly going through my ULTA catalog that came in the mail, pulling out the perfume ads randomly, when I realized they could potentially be a sensory tool. So I placed them in a bag in case it ever comes in handy, as rule number one of being an OT is that you must be a hoarder….::ducks::
I might use it with some of my OT children *IF* I am sure they are not allergic or overly sensitive to those types of smells, as a form of “arousal”. The G-rated kind of arousal that allows them to simulate their senses through various modalities and pathways.
I know of some OTs who work patients who are comatose or have significant brain injuries, trying to slowly re-stimulate their senses and help bring about consciousness, and I wonder if any of them are able to use such scents, or if they are too harsh for those noses.
I also wonder if they could be used with people with dementia, to help trigger old memories. Have any of you ever smelled something that transported you into a memory? Perhaps an old perfume scent would be a trigger for them.
In terms of senses, many of us overlook the olfactory sense, but it can be quite powerful. There is something to be said for aromatherapies, for scent-based memories, and for awakening all our senses. On the other side, for people lacking various senses (such as the deaf/blind), or people with sensitivities to smells (such as pregnant women, people on chemotherapy), smell can be overwhelming. I know my roommate, who is deaf and almost blind due to Usher’s syndrome, has a very strong sense of smell and can definitely smell things we can’t. And when I volunteered at a pediatric cancer hospital, we were asked to not wear fragrances of any type, as the children on chemo were quite sensitive.
Scents/smells/olfactory sense is a tool that can be used in occupational therapy, but carefully. Being aware of allergies, sensitivities, and tolerance levels is very important so that you cause no harm. But don’t forget about the olfactory sense entirely! Used in conjunction with other tools, it can make a treatment session more powerful.