Introduction: Cooking With a Parent With Alzheimer's

About: Hi, I'm Shari! I'm a busy wife and mom with two tween/teen daughters, and I work full-time. You'll find that the recipes and products in my blog have become huge time-savers for my family.

We found out about four years ago that Dad has Alzheimer's Disease and he is currently mid-stage. He started showing signs of memory issues about two years before that, at around age 62. We have seen the disease progression over time, but also are amazed at what memories and abilities that he has retained. He can watch a TV show and laugh at all the right places. He listens to music from the 60s to the 80s and he knows all the words. I'll randomly start to sing a song and he immediately whistles along with me. We are always looking for ways that Dad can participate in everyday activities, so here are some ideas for cooking with a parent with Alzheimer's. He helped me make Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup last winter. This Instructable is intended to give you ideas for how a person with dementia can help out in the kitchen.

Step 1: Adjust How Dad Can Help Based on Current Abilities

Here are the pictures I took last winter of Dad helping me prep food for Chicken Noodle Soup and some ideas for cooking with a parent with Alzheimer's.

I cut the celery and carrots into smaller strips so that they wouldn't be too hard to cut with the Vidalia Chopper. I talked him through each chop and had him transfer the diced veggies into a small prep bowl.

When my girls were young, I had them do tasks like this as well so that they could learn how to cook and also to spend more time with them.

Step 2: Transfer Ingredients From One Container to Another

I pre-measured the milk and had him pour it into a small prep bowl as well. Last but not least, the noodles were pretty long, so he and I took the time to break them into smaller bite-sized pieces. When it was time to cook, I had him transfer the ingredients in the prep bowls to the soup pan. He is interested in helping and seems to enjoy his accomplishments! I love that he's wearing one of his Caterpillar shirts and you can see that the logo is just barely showing from under his flannel shirt. He worked at CAT for 35 years as a Mechanical Engineer.

Step 3: More Ideas, Depending on Ability

Note that you don't want to encourage your loved one to use the stove or other kitchen items if they shouldn't be. At this point, I now avoid having my dad help with anything on the stove and of course avoid use of any sharp utensils for food prep.

High level of functioning:

  • read the recipe ingredients out loud to you
  • open cans with can opener
  • stir food in the pan when cooking
  • find ingredients in the refrigerator or pantry
  • get cooking utensils, bowls, pans out of cabinet
  • use knife (if able to safely use) to cut up herbs or other ingredients
  • measure ingredients and add to bowl or pan on stove top
  • use blender or electric mixer
  • grate cheese

Mid level of functioning (in addition to the other ideas in this Instructable):

  • wipe off lids of canned goods before you open them
  • rinse prep dishes as you go or when you're done
  • crack salt or pepper into a food prep bowl and you can measure the amount you need
  • use scissors (if able to safely use) to cut up herbs or other ingredients
  • rather than use a standard measuring cup with various volumes, use a container the size you need (1/4 or 1/2 cup, etc.) and ask them to fill it to the top
  • tear herbs into smaller pieces that you can cut up better later
  • help you pick vegetables or herbs from your garden
  • use butter knife to spread butter or condiments on bread
  • knead dough
  • stir, stir, stir - even if your recipe doesn't need to be stirred
  • pour ingredients from one container to another - even if you don't need this to be done

Encourage your loved one to snack on ingredients like fruits and veggies as they help with food prep. Be sure to remind them when you eat that they helped you make this great meal! My dad even at mid-stage often remembers to compliment me on the meals I make, especially if there is a sauce or gravy involved :)

See full post and recipe at The Root Family Review.