There is something so special about the kitchen. It is the very first stop kids make when they get home from school in search of a snack as well as the opportunity to share about their day. It is the spot family members gather to cook holiday meals together. It is also a place to warm up a cup of milk and find some quiet, reflective solace when sleep is elusive.
For a person with dementia, the kitchen can evoke cherished memories like these. Cooking engages numerous senses, making it an ideal activity to unlock the doors of reminiscence. The rhythmic chopping of vegetables, the sizzle of ingredients in a pan, as well as the enticing aroma of a well-seasoned dish can stir positive memories, sparking joy and connection.
If you'd like to add culinary techniques to your dementia care toolbox, these suggestions can help.
Keep it simple. Use uncomplicated recipes with familiar ingredients to promote a feeling of accomplishment. If the person has a box of recipes or favorite cookbook, this is a great starting point. Pull out several recipe options that would be simple to prepare, and then talk through which ones may spark interest. Or, you can search online for simple recipes based on the person’s particular tastes.
Make it personal. Consider the capabilities and preferences of the individual. Activities like rolling out cookies, kneading dough, or tossing a salad can be confidence-boosting, empowering, and reinforce a feeling of purpose while triggering memories.
Organize ahead of time. An organized approach, with ingredients lined up and ready and step-by-step instructions provided, will help ensure a more seamless and enjoyable experience.
Stay social. The idea is to make the activity an occasion of togetherness, transforming the kitchen into a space where stories are exchanged, laughter is shared, and bonds are strengthened.
The end goal should never be to create a Pinterest-worthy culinary production. Rather, concentrate on each one of the senses being used and tap into any memories that may come to the surface.
Perhaps, for instance, you’re making an apple pie. You can talk about how smooth the crust feels as you roll it out and the powdery flour that puffs into the air while you sprinkle it on the dough. Point out the sound of the apples being chopped, the delicious cinnamon butter aroma while the pie bakes. And of course, enjoy a slice of the finished product together, encouraging any stories along the way that the individual wishes to share.