Posts Tagged cooking with dementia

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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Make Whipped Cream

photo courtesy of culinarymasterclass.com

photo courtesy of culinarymasterclass.com

This activity is great for people with memory loss because it’s essentially one (maybe two) steps, so you can pretty much start them off, then let them finish on their own, giving them a sense of accomplishment. Even better, everyone can enjoy the delicious result!

You’ll need:
A chilled bowl
A whisk
Heavy whipping cream
Powdered sugar

The process:
Pour the chilled cream into the chilled bowl (1 cup cream equals about 2 cups of whipped cream)
Whisk until starting to thicken, but not quick “stiff”. Add about 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar for each cup of cream (adjust for taste as desired)
Keep whipping until you like the consistency.

**Note, you can use regular sugar instead. Powdered sugar just dissolves faster. I also sometimes cheat and put the sugar in immediately and I don’t notice any terrible consequences, but most recipes tell you to wait until the cream has thickened a bit.)

Of course, it would be a lot faster to do this with an electric mixer, but using a whisk has the benefit of keeping the person engaged longer.

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Make Snow Candy

photo courtesy of thekitchn.com

photo courtesy of thekitchn.com

I was OBSESSED with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a kid (you know, from Little House on the Prarie?). I was even her for Halloween one year, so I loved making maple-syrup taffy with my grandmother, just like Laura did in her book, Little House in the Big Woods. Here’s an easy recipe from Country Living.

1. Gather up some clean, fresh snow and pack it into a pie plate or roasting pan. Pack it down and set it down outside or in the freezer so it stays cold.

2. Pour a half cup of real maple syrup into a small saucepan, ideally a saucepan with a pouring lip. We like the darker flavor of Grade B maple syrup!

3. Bring the syrup to a boil over medium-high heat, and put a candy thermometer in.

4. When the syrup reaches 235°F (the soft-ball stage) take it off the heat and immediately drizzle it over the packed snow in the pan. Let the syrup cool for just a minute or two, then pick it up with your fingers and eat! (Watch your teeth!)

This is a fun post-dinner treat for wintertime, and so easy. It would be a fun and instantly gratifying way to teach little ones about candy-making and sugar chemistry, too, if you’re so inclined. We also think the hot syrup probably kills any icky bacteria in the snow on contact, so we’re not too worried about eating scary snow. (Just watch out for the yellow stuff. Ick.)

The taffy itself tastes just like maple syrup, of course, with a deliciously chewy texture that melts in your mouth. It’s also delightfully fleeting; eat it all while it’s cold, or the water will dissolve it back into plain maple syrup.

I’ve heard that you can do the same thing with honey, and even seen some people say they just pour the syrup or honey straight from the jar onto the snow to create a hard candy rather than a soft taffy. Either way, it’s a fun and fairly quick project for someone with memory loss. You might find that the person with memory loss did it as a child (my grandmother did), which is great way to start some reminiscing. OBviously, be careful if you do decide to boil the syrup, but those in the middle stages can certainly help gather the snow, stir the syrup, and taste the results! Those in the early stages would probably only need supervision to make sure the syrup doesn’t get too hot (it’s easy to get distracted and hard to read the tiny numbers on a candy thermometer.)

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Make a Gingerbread House

photo courtesy of McCormick.com

Gingerbread houses are a super fun way to celebrate the season, and their emphasis on creativity and fun, rather than perfect results, makes their construction a great activity for those with memory loss.  Even better, if you do make something you just can’t stand to look at, you get to eat it!  You can make the sides of the  gingerbread house yourself or do what I do and start with a kit.  That way, you can get right to the fun part-decorating! (you can always add extra candy or frosting colors to what’s provided).

Depending on the person’s skill level, they may or may not need help assembling the house itself, then be able to decorate it once it’s together.  For those with shakey hands or an extra-firm candy-placement style, you can always decorate the sides first and assemble the house at the end.  For those in the more moderate stages of the disease, too many choices can be overwhelming, so you may want to limit the number of candy to make things easier.  You may find that it’s best to work as a pair, with either the person with memory loss pointing where they want things to go, then you laying down the frosting “glue” for them.  Or, conversely, it might be easier if you put the frosting down first then have them add the decoration on top. 

Of course, those in the early stages of the disease should be able to decorate a house fairly independently, so get a big group together and make a gingerbread village!   Those in the severe stages of the disease may not be able to decorate much, but can certainly enjoy smelling the gingerbread, feeling the texture (and taste!) of the candies, and watching the process of assembly.

Of course, no matter what the person’s cognitive level, be sure to reminisce about Christmases past.  Maybe place some holiday music (if it’s not too distracting) and pour yourself a mug of hot cocoa. It doesn’t get much more Christmas-y than that!

 

 

 

 

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