Eating ice cream can improve your health. Yes…you read that correctly.

One nursing home uses this delicious treat to improve health and boost social interaction.

It started when the staff of Folsom Center for Rehab & Healthcare in Cullman noticed some residents were experiencing weight loss over a specific time frame.

“It began with numbers,” Folsom Center for Rehab & Healthcare Activity Director Amanda Woods said. “We noticed that some residents were losing weight over a six-month period. After reviewing the medical records, we decided to do something different to turn the numbers around. We wanted to turn weight loss into weight gain.”

Staff wanted to do something different from the traditional methods of giving residents extra snacks, nutrition shakes or larger meals. Their outside the box solution eventually became the program now called “Juggle Flavors.” Every Friday afternoon, staff members push an ice cream cart around the nursing home to deliver hand-dipped ice cream to every resident, visitor and staff member. Employees will dress in costumes and provide entertainment and laughs while the cart rolls down each hall. No matter one’s cognitive level, the sound of Juggle Flavors music brings happiness and smiling faces as each resident knows it’s time for ice cream.

The staff’s willingness to do something different paid off with great results. After the first six months, the number of residents experiencing significant weight loss declined from 15 to 2.

“The ice cream increases caloric intake and decreases the risk of dehydration,” Woods said. “It was originally designed to promote weight gain, but as it evolved we found it promoted social interaction, activity participation and improved resident satisfaction. One of the most important benefits is watching the resident’s face light up as the cart comes around to enter their room.”

You may be asking, “Why is weight loss a bad thing? Don’t we all need to lose a few pounds?” Well, you have to look deeper to find the answer in skilled nursing care.

“Most of our residents are not to a point of being overweight,” Woods explained. “When they come to use from other settings or even the community, they most likely have suffered poor nutrition. In the nursing home setting, maintaining a healthy weight becomes the key to the overall functionality and managing co-morbidities, thus allowing for increased participation in activity programs. Juggle Flavors has not only allowed us to get a handle on weight loss, but also has allowed us to boost hydration, while also improving cognition stimulation.”

So…the next time you’re in Cullman on a Friday afternoon, stop by the Folsom Center for Rehab & Healthcare for a scoop of ice cream and leave seeing the smiles that are priceless!

Folsom Center for Rehab & Healthcare will present “Juggle Flavors” at Alabama’s Best Practices on August 27, 2015.

Click here for detailed information on how to implement Folsom Center for Rehab & Healthcare’s best practice in your nursing home.