Dementia Care: Using Food to Engage and Connect
If there is one thing that connects all of us, it’s food! Think about how many precious memories have been made through the years that included food at the center of them all: wedding celebrations, holiday meals, birthday parties. Even ordinary days involve routines that become ingrained in us around food, from that first aromatic cup of coffee in the morning to a shared bowl full of buttery popcorn with family while watching a show on television.
It’s no surprise that food is not just a necessity for our physical health, but often a highly effective dementia care strategy. Here are a few activities you can try to help spark memories while engaging all the senses through food.
- Storytelling. Take out an old cookbook and look through the recipes together to determine if any spark memories. The senior loved one may remember food rationing during wartime or the time they tried a brand new recipe early in their marriage which was a total disaster. If a particular recipe is of interest, make it together!
- Preparing. Choose an easy recipe to prepare, for example, sandwiches or fruit salad. Assemble the ingredients and incorporate them into your conversation. While washing and cutting up fruit, for instance, ask the senior what kinds of fruits they enjoyed as a child.
- Decorating. Frost cupcakes while reminiscing about the treats Mom would prepare for school birthday parties. Roll out cookie dough and make use of cookie cutters and sprinkles to make them specific to an upcoming holiday as you discuss holidays past.
Think about how to incorporate all the senses into mealtimes. There is much more to food than taste! Point out the delicious scent regarding the chicken you are roasting for dinner, the sizzling sound of sausage frying, the cool smoothness of bread dough being kneaded. Try to make each plate served appetizing to the palate as well as the eyes. And as much as possible, foster conversations that link the senior to memories from the past.
Quite often, someone with Alzheimer’s will experience a diminished appetite and lose interest in food. Activities such as these can be a great way to revive the joy we experience together through shared meals and treats.
Our Alzheimer’s caregivers have many more tips to make life the best it can be for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Contact CareWorks Health Services any time at (949) 859-4700 to request dementia care resources or to get additional information on our personalized home care in Mission Viejo and nearby communities.