Posts Tagged cooking with dementia

Pretend that You are the Host of Your Own Cooking Show

pretend you are the host of a cooking show

I was inspired by this idea when a friend of mine actually demoed a simple guacamole recipe for her mom. She thought it would be fun to pretend to be cooking show host while her mom was the ‘audience’. My friend went through the recipe step-by-step, provided tips on how to prepare the world’s best guac, and gave her mom a taste of the finished product at the end. It reminded me of Mario Batali’s cooking show (featured above) where he describes the ingredients, the process of putting it all together, and (best of all) gives the audience members sitting at the bar a taste of what he’s prepared.

I think this activity can be readily adapted for someone with dementia with a little bit of creativity. For example, you could hand the person the garlic or cilantro to smell the aroma. Have them taste just the plain mashed avocado before other ingredients are added. Ask the person to help stir the ingredients together in the bowl. Or ask them to lay out tortilla chips on a plate for dipping. Say you are trying our a new recipe and it would really help if they could be your taste-tester. Be flexible and find what works for you and your person!

I like that it gives the ‘audience member’ the option to interject comments or otherwise add to the interaction, but they are not pressured to do so. Depending on the person, they might be involved more passively, however, they are still being engaged throughout the entire process. But be ready in case your person would like to jump in and have a suitable activity in mind (such as the suggestions above). Do most of the prep work in advance before getting the person involved, so it is mostly a matter of assembling things together (e.g. chop garlic beforehand, open and scoop out avocado) — make sure your mise en place up to par! It is also best if you can use a clean and clutter-free counter space for this activity. Set out only the items that you will be using, and remove anything that will just get in the way or create clutter. Simplify, simplify!

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Wash Dirty (or clean) Dishes

dirty dish

I am the type of person that does not like other people cleaning my dishes. When I do receive help, I am often thinking about how wrong the placement of the dishes in the dishwasher is, or how the helper is certainly not scrubbing quite as thoroughly as I would be. OK, so maybe I’m a little bit of a dirty dish control freak! The point being, when someone does everything for the person with memory loss, it does not necessarily make the person feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It might cause them some anxiety or agitation because they’d rather be the person scrubbing away. Likewise, the caregiver may have a difficult time receiving help from the person with dementia because perhaps they believe the person will not clean the dishes as immaculately as they could. The solution? Relinquish some control and solicit the person’s help to wash those dishes (jeez!). Even if the dishes are not washed exactly as you would have done them or in the same amount of time, it is good for the person with dementia to feel purposeful and engaged in daily activities. Still concerned that the person may miss some stuck on grime? Offer the person a batch of already cleaned dishes that they can wash and dry. Be sure to remove hazardous items, such as knives and heavy skillets. Plastic cups and plates are a good choice because there is virtually no risk of dropping and breaking them. Monitor the person to ensure they are deriving enjoyment throughout the process. This activity can be very open-ended, and he/she can be involved for as long as they desire. Also, be sure to praise the person’s efforts!

 

 

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Make Baked Apples

Fall is in the air! Temperatures are dropping and days are becoming shorter. What better way to welcome in the season than with a delicious Fall cooking staple? The wonderful, nutrient packed apple! Baked apple desserts are undeniably yummy, and they require relatively little prep work. This is a great choice of activity for individuals who have cooking experience, as it may conjure up fond memories of being in the kitchen. Make an effort to reminisce with the person throughout the task. Even individuals without a cooking background will surely enjoy the enticing smells of apples baking alongside aromatic cinnamon and vanilla (these recipes will make your whole house smell amazing).

Try this recipe or make modifications to suit your tastes.

baked-apple-slices

  • Choose a variety of apple that is ideal for baking, such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp or Fuji. Any firm, non-mealy apple will do.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Peel, core, and slice 6 apples. This process can be simplified and expedited with an inexpensive apple peeler.
  • Grease a baking dish with butter.
  • Mix 2 tbs brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1tsp nutmeg, and 3 tsp ground cinnamon in a bowl.
  • Layer 1/3 apple slices in greased baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the sugar mixture. Repeat twice.
  • Bake apples uncovered for 30 minutes, then add 3 1/2 tbs water to the dish. Bake 15 minutes more or until tender.

Or, try the less prep intensive microwaved version

  • Peel (or don’t), core, and slice 1 apple.
  • Place apple slices in a freezer bag with 1 tsb sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cornstarch, and 1tbs water. Shake the freezer bag to coat apple slices with mixture.
  • Open the freezer bag just slightly to vent. Microwave for 2 minutes or until apple is tender.
  • CAREFULLY remove apple slices from microwaved bag. Enjoy plain or over vanilla ice cream.

Want to mix it up? Opt for baked apple chips. These could not be simpler to make.

baked apple chips

 

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  • Remove apple core from 2 apples.
  • Thinly slice apples (Be mindful of safety and consider who is best to do this).
  • Place apple slices on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  • Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and bake for 2 hours. Flip slices over after 1 hour of baking.

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Play Chinese Checkers

chinee checkers

Chinese Checkers is another one of those games that is great for people with memory loss because it’s likely to be familiar and the rules preserved in long term memory. If, however, you need a refresher, there is a great tutorial (with pictures!) here.

It may be easier for someone with memory loss to use a simplified board such as the one below
50310-TwoManChinese
This two man board can be purchased online here.

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Make “Puppy Chow”

puppy chow

Puppy Chow, also known as “Muddy Mix” or “Monkey Munch”, is a super easy, super delicious treat. But be warned: This recipe is NOT for the diabetics among us! I like this recipe as an activity for people with memory loss because it’s pretty simple, can be done without the stove, and it’s not a big deal if the ingredients aren’t measured exactly. The recipe, courtesy of Food.com, is as follows:

Ingredients:
9 cups Chex cereal (any kind)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, melted
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 -2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Measure cereal in large bowl and set aside.
2. Microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter for 1 minute on high.
3. Stir and cook for 30 seconds longer or until smooth.
4. Add vanilla.
5. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until coated.
6. Pour mixture into large Ziploc bag and add powdered sugar.
7. Shake until well coated.
8. Spread on waxed paper to cool.
9. Eat. Store in Ziploc bags or large sealed bowl (as if it will last that long!).

Of course, this activity can be modified for someone in almost any stage of dementia. Someone with only mild memory loss may be able to do all the steps independently. Someone the moderate stages may be able to measure all the ingredients and stir/shake as needed, but may need help remembering the order of the steps or need help operating the microwave. Someone in the late stages of the disease may be able to stir or shake after seeing a short demonstration or some hand-over-hand assistance.

Be sure to reminisce as you cook. You could ask about favorite sweet treats, what they liked to cook (or what they hated to cook!). Their children’s favorite snacks, how they learned to cook, etc.

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Pick Grapes Off the Bunch

img_3044_thumb

Picking grapes off the bunch is a great way for the person with memory loss to help out in the kitchen. It allows the former cook of the family to still be involved, yet out from underfoot if you need to concentrate on what’s your doing. It allows the hungry person to enjoy a snack without tons of empty calories (and the reluctant drinker to get some fluids). It’s overlearnt and repetitive nature means that people very late in the disease can still perform it (though if you’re the cautious type you’ll likely want to make sure they didn’t miss any small stems, though I doubt they’d kill anyone if they accidentally ingested them). Be sure to wash them before they start picking, so any that are eaten while the job is being done are clean. Otherwise, just putting a bowl and a bunch of grapes in front of all but the most severely impaired person should be enough to get them started on the job!

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Make Lemonade

lemonade pitcher

Nothing says summer like a cold glass of lemonade, and making it from scratch is an activity stored in the long-term memory of many older adults, so why not try it? You might find that you like it even better than the pre-made stuff from the store.

You’ll need:

6 Lemons
1 cup sugar (or equivalent amount of other sweetener)
6 cups cold water

Start by rolling the lemons on the counter for a few seconds to get the juices flowing, then cut them in half and juice them using the juicing tool of your choice (sidenote: I had no idea how many different types of juicers there were! Look at a few of the different options, below.

citrus%20juicer

juicer 2

juicer 3

lemonjuicer

heavy-duty-citrus-juicer

juicer

Lemon-juicer

lemon-squeezer

Try and discover and use the type used by the person with memory loss in the past in order to maximize their success with this activity, especially for those with the later stages of the disease.
Once the lemons are juiced, add the sugar and water to taste (the above amounts are only estimates. You may use more of less depending on how much juice you get from the lemons and how sweet you want the finished product to be).

Of course, making lemonade isn’t just about drinking it, at least not from an activity standpoint! There are also lots of opportunities to reminisce about when the person with memory loss might have made it in the past; if they ever had lemonade stand and if so, what they were trying to raise money for; etc.. Even if the person is in the late stages of the disease we can stimulate their sense of touch by letting them hold a lemon, their sense of smell, and their sense of taste, of course.

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