January 9, 2024 by Dean Bellefeuille

The adult child of a senior practices dementia care cooking tips for seniors.

The kitchen is a special place in the home. It’s where kids first go when they get home from school, looking for a snack and the chance to share about their day. It’s the place family members gather to prepare 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 adults with dementia, they may associate these wonderful memories with the kitchen.  Cooking engages multiple senses, making it an ideal activity to unlock the doors of reminiscence. The rhythmic chopping of vegetables, the sizzle of ingredients in a pan, and the tantalizing fragrance of a well-seasoned dish can stir positive memories, sparking joy and connection.

If you’re ready to add cooking techniques to your dementia care toolbox, these tips can help.

  • Make it personal. Keep in mind the person’s capabilities and preferences. 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.
  • Don’t Overcomplicate It. Use uncomplicated recipes with familiar ingredients to promote 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 online for simple recipes according to the person’s particular tastes.
  • Stay social. The idea is to make the activity a time of togetherness, transforming the kitchen into a warm space where stories are exchanged, laughter is shared, and bonds are strengthened.
  • Plan in advance. A structured approach, with ingredients lined up and ready and step-by-step instructions provided, will help ensure a more seamless and enjoyable experience.

The goal isn’t to get an Insta-worthy culinary shot. Instead, focus 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 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 piece of the finished product together, encouraging any stories along the way that the person would like to share.

With At Home Independent Living, our skilled dementia caregivers are on hand to incorporate culinary experiences into an older adult’s care plan. Contact us online or at (315) 579-HOME (4663) to learn more about our dementia care services in Syracuse, Camillus, Clay, and the surrounding areas.