Seniors and Loss of Smell

alz-eat-300x199.jpgIs a senior loved one in your life suffering from a loss of sense of smell? While the challenges associated with vision or hearing losses are well known, challenges associated with the loss of the sense of smell can be similarly serious, but are less recognized.


The technical term for the loss of the sense of smell is anosmia. It is fairly rare for a person to lose all sense of smell, but a significant lessening of the sense of smell is not uncommon. While anosmia is rarely associated with more serious disorders, it can lead to other issues in a more indirect manner.

Smell and taste

A person's ability to taste is heavily dependent on the sense of smell. While taste buds do deliver important information concerning flavor and spiciness to the brain, a person's experience of how a food tastes depends on how he or she perceives olfactory information. When a person's sense of smell lessens, so does the taste of food. Things which used to be highly agreeable to the palate no longer pack the same punch or have the same appeal. Many older individuals tend to eat less, and may not get the nutrients they need. If anosmia de-motivates a senior to eat, serious weight loss can result.

Anosmia and accidents

A decrease in one's olfactory abilities can also lead to accidents. For example, it's the nose that alerts a person to the fact that the gas on the stove didn't light or that the fish that was purchased a few days ago no longer smells appropriate. In some instances, individuals may consume clear but toxic liquid thinking that it is water; without a proper sense of smell, they miss a warning signal that this liquid is not safe for drinking.

Doctors can sometimes treat anosmia, if the cause is an infection or a blockage in the nasal system. In other cases, however, anosmia becomes a permanent condition. In such cases, caregivers need to take special care t​o make sure that the loved one in question is eating properly and guard against spoiled food or drink, gas leaks, etc.​

Related Article:
Smell This! Aromatic Treatment of Alzheimer’s​ -​


There are no comments on this post.
Looking for advice?

Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.

Sign up for advice

Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.

Please select at least one newsletter.
Valid email address is required
View sample
View sample
View sample