During the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in Israel – when no visitors were permitted into any hospitals – dieticians at Sheba-Tel Hashomer Medical Center, observed that geriatric patients were quickly becoming depressed, barely eating and in poor nutritional condition.
“Our only option was to give them nutritional liquid supplements,” said Meital Benjamin, a registered dietician at Sheba Medical Center. “In one small bottle they get a full meal’s worth of nutrition, 330 calories and 20 grams of protein.”
Getting geriatric patients to take their supplements can be sometimes be difficult even at the best of times, but coupled with the onset of widespread depression, a creative solution was needed to administer them in the effective way possible.
“The mental state of our patients at Sheba is of the utmost importance to us,” said Dana Weiner, RD, Director of the Division of Nutrition at Sheba Medical Center, who initiated the project together with Sheba’s Dr. Gilat Shenhav-Zaltzman. “Patients must be able to help themselves mentally in order to feel better. Beyond all the other excellent medical treatments our patients receive here at Sheba, if they do not have the physical energy needed, which the nutritional food supplements provide, they will not be able to get better.”
The solution was the donation of an ice cream making machine to the hospital. The liquid supplements are poured into the machine and 45 minutes later a nutritional supplement-based ice cream is ready for consumption. The ice cream provides a healthy “comfort food” option for the geriatric patients and according to the staff and patients alike, it tastes good, too.
The supplement formulas, which the hospital served between breakfast and lunch, came in cups just like the ones in ice cream parlors. And they came in four flavors; chocolate, vanilla, banana and cocoa. When taken in their liquid form, the supplements can have an unpleasant aftertaste due to the added vitamins, however, when the formula was served in frozen form it tastes like real ice cream.
“The response to the new ice cream has been amazing,” says Benjamin, who runs the process together with fellow Sheba dietician Ayelet Gur-Arie. “It’s much better than having to tell patients to ‘drink this.’ And it’s tasty too. In fact, it’s so good, all the patients have been asking for second helpings.”
“The last thing I expected to receive while being at the hospital was ice cream,” said 78-year-old Rachel Sasson, who has been in treatment at Sheba for several months. “It’s like a treat. It tastes wonderful and warms my heart.”
Sheba-Tel Hashomer Medical Center is Israel’s – and the Middle East’s – largest hospital. Earlier this year, it was voted – for the third year-running – among Newsweek’s Top-10 ranked hospitals in the world.