Enhancing Dementia Care Through Culinary Activities

A woman bakes in the kitchen with her elderly mother as part of their dementia care routine.

When it comes to dementia care, cooking can be much more than just making meals; it can be a new way to connect.

There’s something so special about the kitchen. It is the very first stop kids make once they get home from school, in search of a snack as well as the chance to share the events of their day. It’s the spot family members gather to cook holiday meals together. It’s also a place to warm up a cup of milk and find some quiet, reflective solace when sleep is elusive.

For someone with dementia, the kitchen can evoke cherished memories like these. Cooking engages numerous senses, which makes 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 tantalizing fragrance of a well-seasoned dish can stir good memories, sparking joy and connection.

If you would like to add culinary techniques to your dementia care toolbox, these tips will help.

  • Make it simple. Use uncomplicated recipes with familiar ingredients to build a sense of accomplishment. If the person has a box of recipes or favorite cookbook, this is a great place to start. Pull out several recipe options that would be simple to prepare, and then talk through which ones may spark interest. Or, you can search on the internet for simple recipes based on the person’s particular tastes.
  • Make it personal. Consider the capabilities and preferences of the individual. Activities such as kneading dough, rolling out cookies, or tossing a salad can be empowering, confidence-boosting, and reinforce a sense 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 objective is to make the activity an occasion of togetherness, transforming the kitchen into a shared space where laughter is shared, stories are exchanged, and bonds are strengthened.

The end goal should never be to create a Pinterest-worthy culinary production. Instead, focus on each of the senses utilized and draw on any memories that may come to the surface.

Perhaps, for example, you are 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 as you sprinkle it over the dough. Point out the sound of the apples being chopped, the delicious cinnamon butter aroma as the pie bakes. And of course, enjoy a bit of the finished product together, encouraging any stories along the way that the person would like to share.

At CareWorks Health Services, our experienced dementia caregivers are readily available to include culinary experiences into an older adult’s care plan. Email or call us at (949) 859-4700 for more information on our dementia care services in Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, and the surrounding areas.