This activity idea comes from Measure of the Heart, a novel by Mary Ellen Geist, recounting her personal experience of returning home to Michigan to help care for her father who is diagnosed with dementia. Her father, Woody Geist, also appears in the HBO documentary “The Alzheimer’s Project”. The Geist’s resilience and candor in the face of this devastating disease is truly inspirational.
The following excerpt is taken directly from the book:
- whole chicken, about 4 pounds
- 1 green apple, washed and cored
- 3 stalks of celery, rinsed
- 1 yellow or white onion, skin removed
- several sprigs of fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme, rinsed
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 3 tbs olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse a 4-pound roasting chicken, removing and discarding the giblets from the cavity.
Place the green apple, celery, onion, and herbs on a large chopping board. Hand a not-so-sharp knife to the Alzheimer’s patient, depending of course on how far the disease has progressed. It may not be wise to do this for Alzheimer’s patients who’ve been living with the disease for more than ten years, but my father can still safely use a knife if I stand next to him and make sure he isn’t holding it upside down.
Let the patient chop up the fruit, vegetables, and herbs however the hell he or she wants to, without hovering and explaining how to do it! Don’t say: “No! Do it like this!” Remember: It doesn’t matter what the chunks look like or how big or small they are. The process can be liberating not only for the patient but also for you.
Open the cavity of the chicken and have the Alzheimer’s patient help you stuff the bird with a big wooden spoon. Put the chicken in a 9×13 inch baking dish or pan. Pour the red wine, olive oil, and a little water over the stuffed bird. Cook it in the oven at 350 degrees F for at least two hours, until the temperature of the thigh reaches 180 degrees F. Have the Alzheimer’s patient help you baste the bird often. Let it sit a bit after you’ve taken it out of the oven; then slice and serve.