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The TASTE of memories. Exploring taste in palliative care (original: What's for dinner?)(UPDATED 08/01)

In palliative care, dinner isn't (just) about nutrition anymore, but taste is still a powerful sense. How can we reframe the joy of eating?

Photo of Erik Mooij

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

This idea is aimed at care providers in hospices and elderly care to help clients find a new joy in eating. For terminally ill patients, both appetite and taste change significantly. By exploring tastes, memories and traditions, we might be able to help regain a new kind of appetite, an emotional one.

What would you like for dinner tonight?

It seems like a normal question for most people, but for terminally ill patients in hospices or palliative care, dinner isn't (that much) about appetite or nutrition anymore.

A lot of patients already lost their appetite, and many of them also have an altered taste, so picking a meal is sometimes more of a burden than something to look forward to.

But there are ways to help them re-appreciate eating in some way, because taste is an important sense and food isn't just about filling your stomach, but is also (or can also be) an emotional experience. And designing a way to help them explore those experiences might add to a better end-of-life experience.

TASTE is an idea for an app, to use by patients and their caregivers to collect fond memories tied to culinary experiences,  relive traditions through meals and share a common past through dinner.

TASTE lets patients remember their culinary wishes, explore foods that have an emotional value, share those memories with family and friends and make it easier to discuss their dietary wishes with caregivers.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Start with storytelling. Create a taste log to write down patient's thoughts and memories related to dinner. Then organize food tastings in a hospice to find out better what kind of options patients would prefer, what triggers which memories and how to choose what to eat, when and with whom.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

dieticians, product/app designers and developers, food designers.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An OpenIDEO Outpost or Chapter


Join the conversation:

Photo of Simone Alexander

Hi Erik, i hope the process is going well. I've been keeping an eye on this idea as I interested to see how it develops during this refinement stage. Best of luck. 

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