MIND in memory care
Moving In Nurturing Directions in Memory Care

Cindy's Blog


Can you imagine life without 1 or 2 of your favorite flavors? Researchers Katherine Piwnica-Worms, R. Omar, J. Hailstone, and J. Warren used jelly beans to test subject's ability to discriminate and identify flavors, as well as to assess combinations of flavors as to whether they were appropriate and pleasant. An example they used was the combination of vanilla and pickle. Their research finds evidence that there is a loss of meaning for flavors in patients with "semantic dementia." This is a degenerative disease that affects the temporal lobes of the brain, and the meanings of the words become lost. So, if my temporal lobes were being affected by this type of dementia, and you asked me if I wanted my favorite chocolate ice cream, I would have no idea what you were asking me. And even if you gave me that favorite flavor, I would not necessarily be able to identify it as something I love. This research helps provide clues to some of the abnormal eating patterns some people with dementia develop, such as faddism, or possibly a pathological sweet tooth.

I asked an elderly woman one day when we were driving back from a family reunion, if she wanted to stop for a milkshake. She readily agreed, but when I asked her what flavor she wanted, she was unable to understand my question. She couldn't remember that she loved chocolate. I ordered chocolate for her and she enjoyed it immensely, so I took comfort in that. It hurt to think she couldn't remember chocolate, but I rejoiced to see that she did still enjoy it that particular day.

We never know what area of the brain will be affected next by dementia. We must continue to alter our perception of what this person wants or likes because they may have just decided they want pickles and vanilla ice cream--and they would actually probably enjoy it. This article is titled "Flavour processing in semantic dementia" and can be read in Cortex, Vol. 46, Issue 6 (June 2010) published by Elsevier.

Alzheimer's and Dementia Counseling and Education
call Cindy Keith of M.I.N.D. in Memory Care