Cooking Up Connections: A Guide to Culinary Care for Dementia Patients

A woman bakes with her elderly mother and experiences connection through food, a useful tool in care for dementia patients.
Cooking and being in the kitchen offers a sensory experience that transcends memory barriers and can be a useful tool in care for dementia.

There’s something so special about the kitchen. It’s the very first stop kids make when they arrive home from school, in search of a snack and the opportunity to share about their day. It is the place 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 someone with dementia, the kitchen can evoke precious 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 tantalizing aroma of a well-seasoned dish can stir uplifting memories, sparking joy and connection.

If you’d like to add culinary techniques to your toolbox of care for dementia in someone you love, these tips will help.

  • Keep it simple. Use uncomplicated recipes with familiar ingredients to build a feeling of accomplishment. If the person has a box of recipes or favorite cookbook, this is an excellent place to begin. Pull out several recipe options that would be simple to prepare, and then discuss which ones may spark interest. Or, you can search on the internet for simple recipes according to the person’s particular tastes.
  • Organize ahead of time. A structured 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 should be to make the activity a time of togetherness, transforming the kitchen into a space where laughter is shared, stories are exchanged, and bonds are strengthened.
  • Make it personal. Consider the capabilities and preferences of the individual. Activities like kneading dough, rolling out cookies, or tossing a salad can be empowering, confidence-boosting, and reinforce a sense of purpose while triggering memories.

The end goal should not be to create a Pinterest-worthy culinary production. Rather, concentrate on each 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 discuss how smooth the crust feels as you roll it out and the powdery flour that puffs into the air as you sprinkle it on 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 piece of the finished product together, encouraging any stories on the way that the individual wishes to share.

At Serenity Home Care, our knowledgeable dementia caregivers are readily available to incorporate culinary experiences into an older adult’s care plan. Reach out to us online or call us at 250.590.8098 to learn more about our dementia care services in Oak Bay, Victoria, Sidney, and the surrounding areas.