When resources are being stretched, personnel are trying to juggle more balls than they can count and everyone’s trying to just reach the finish line, it is so easy to understand how some elements of care can be done without much thought. One of those elements is food. When caring for upwards of 150+ residents, it is entirely reasonable to schedule and manage meals well in advance in order to make sure that all nutritional and special needs are care for. Yet in this world of meals, food and efficiency, there is the opportunity to create special moments, perhaps once a month, where residents can either request certain dishes and even help in the making of them.
When it comes to food and memory, there is a host of scientific study that has found powerful links between the two. The University of Haifa in Israel recently found a functional link between the brain region whose role it is to be responsible for taste memory and the area that encodes the time and place we experience the particular tastes. Since 2014, there is now a verifiable link between what we taste, and the time and location in which we tasted it. The stronger the enjoyment of the food, the likelihood of remembering it increases.
The 2014 findings highlight the nuances and depth of the simple and basic sensory experiences. Eating creamy macaroni and cheese at a loved relative’s place at Easter 20 years ago can be a lifelong memory, this experience can be engraved in our minds, mostly without us knowing the strength and existence of the memory.
Food has been for humans, for centuries upon centuries, a social and community affair. Depending on culture, sometimes meals can be tens of people strong, with food in abundance and sensory experiences firing. Even as we age, these memories made in our younger years have a resilience and longevity. Through the very dish we once enjoyed there is an opportunity to bring these memories to the front of our minds.
An interesting experiment to run would be to ask your residents and loved ones what their favourite dish was as a child. What dish to they remember hungering for at dinner time. Try to find the same recipe and re-create the atmosphere they ate it in. If their parents played Sinatra at dinner time, pop him on the CD player. If your loved one grew up around the Mediterranean, do some research as to the music that was popular when your loved one was growing up. Serve up their childhood meal and see what memories bubble to the surface. You may be surprised at how much they remember and the stories they tell.
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