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                Load image into Gallery viewer, Handout: Coping with the Loss of Taste after Stroke or TBI
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Handout: Coping with the Loss of Taste after Stroke or TBI

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    Handout for people coping with the loss of taste after surviving a brain injury or undergoing radiation treatment for head and neck cancer.

    It’s difficult to find statistics for the number of Americans who suffer from anosmia and/or ageusia. Generally, the accepted number hovers around 2 million cases, however a study by Claire Murphy, psychology professor at San Diego State University puts it closer to 14 million.

    Whatever the statistics are, they are likely high at your facility. Strokes, brain injuries, aging, cancer treatments, neurological diagnoses, all can lead to the loss of the sense of taste and/or smell. And this loss is devastating.

    Research into anosmia and ageusia is limited. Research by Professor Thomas Hummel, who runs the Smell and Taste Clinic at the University of Dresden in Germany, found that smelling certain strong odors - including rose oil, lemon and cloves - repeatedly over a 12-week period resulted in some improvement in olfactory function. Researchers continue to learn more and more, but it is a slow and tedious process, leaving us to rely on the usual tips and tricks of the trade to improve the sensation of taste- using temperatures, colors, and textures to make food more enjoyable. Currently, we have no clinical options as SLPs to ultimately repair and drastically improve taste and thus help prevent the unintentional weight loss and depression that stems from these afflictions.

    The loss of taste and smell is devastating. In an interview with the BBC, Professor Barry C Smith, co-director and founder of the Centre for the Study of the Senses notes that, "Studies have shown that people who lose their sense of smell end up more severely depressed and for longer periods of time than people who go blind.”

    Like many disabilities that are invisible, it starts by having a clinician listen and acknowledge that their sense of smell or taste is gone. Our ability to help resolve the problem is limited, and therefore, one reason why many medical staff don’t broach the subject. It’s worth a conversation with the patient and worth a little time exploring how to alter their food’s taste, texture, color, and temperature to achieve a little more pleasure in eating.

    This handout is meant to start the conversation and help patients feel less alone in their world of tasteless, bland food.

    Useful Links:

    • Fifth Sense
      Based in the UK, Fifth Sense support people affected by smell and taste disorders across the world, and are the first charity providing direct support, advice, and a signpost to potential diagnosis and treatment to people affected by such conditions.
    • Anosmia Foundation
    • Stroke Association "Changes to Taste and Smell"

    Included in: Bundle: Dysphagia Patient, Staff, and Family Education.

    Tech specs: Digital download (10.7 MB). PDF format. 2 pages. 11x8.5 inches.

    TECH SPECS: Digital download (10.7 MB). PDF format. 2 pages. 11x8.5 inches. High resolution (300 dpi).SaveSave

    TECH SPECS: Digital download (10.7 MB). PDF format. 2 pages. 11x8.5 inches. High resolution (300 dpi).


    Digital download. Buy once, use forever: Once purchased, you may save to your computer and print as many times as needed for the lifetime of your clinical practice.

    Color hard copies are $20. Free shipping within the U.S.



    Tech tips

    • PDFs are not easily opened, saved, or manipulated on phones or tablets. We recommend only downloading on a computer after purchase.
    • Digital download links will be available after payment on the checkout page and in your order confirmation via email.
    • You will have 5 download attempts over 1 month to access the file.
    • Only the purchaser may access and use the file for their own clinical practice.

    Terms of Use
    It is ok to:
    • Share a printed copy of this resource with a patient/client, their family members and friends, and non-SLP/OT/PT related staff such as nursing, home healthcare providers, physicians, CNAs, social services, dietitians, activities teams, teachers, caregivers, etc.
    • Digitally share the file via online, secure, HIPAA-compliant teletherapy software platforms to any of the people listed in the above point in the context of teletherapy.
    It is not ok to:
    • Share any digital copy with clients outside of the context of teletherapy.
    • Store these files in any publicly accessible online storage system, such as a shared Google drive or other online storage service.
    • Share these files with other SLP/OT/PT related colleagues or friends. Please refer, don’t share.

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