Think of your favorite family recipe. What emotion does that bring you? Joy, comfort, happiness, are some of the few sensations that come with a memory like that. The taste, occasion, and people who join you for that meal occupy the memory of that dish. Cooking brings an opportunity for a form of Alzheimer’s therapy that helps an individual reminisce about a good time, and the people they love.
Holidays have traditional dishes we always look forward to, but typically you’ll find yourself daydreaming about mom’s chicken pot pie, or dad’s big breakfasts he’d make on Sundays. Memories are made even stronger through sensory aspects such as smell or taste. Food brings people together, good feelings, and deep connections to the brain.
Preserving Cognitive Health and Combating Alzheimer’s
The actions associated with cooking can be beneficial in stimulating a senior’s brain. Cooking requires a sense of focus, which in turn keeps the mind active. Concentration on a task not only provides ease, but essentially gives the brain a workout.
A study with 716 participants over the age of 80 found that washing, cooking, and cleaning can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Physical exercise is one of the ways proven to prevent this condition by up to 45%.
Three years into this study, only 71 of the seniors developed Alzheimer’s disease. According to results, those who were the least active were more than twice as likely to develop the disease than those who were most active. This is promising for seniors who can’t partake in formal exercise, and assures that any light activity such as cooking can benefit them in the long run.
Emotional Connection to Cooking
Cooking can help stir memories. Recipes passed down over generations can have a name and face tied to them. In addition to reminiscence therapy, cooking gives a senior a sense of purpose and builds emotional bonds. Added satisfaction from completing a meal and the confidence they build are two important factors for keeping a senior’s spirit high.
Depression, anxiety, and irritability can be lessened when performing a task like washing potatoes or kneading dough. Alzheimer’s often brings negative feelings and emotions, stemmed from confusion and frustration. Cooking however gives them a task to accomplish, and relieves the stress they may be facing.
Making Cooking Safe
It’s important to give a senior a task that will not involve the risk of injury. Rolling dough, washing vegetables, mixing ingredients in a bowl with a spoon, setting the table, cleaning dishes, and other easy tasks are best. Cookies, grilled cheese, quesadillas, or other simple recipes may be the best to take on, depending on what your loved one will feel the most comfortable helping with.
Avoiding hot stoves, sharp cutlery, and other riskier tasks for a loved one is also a good idea. Even a very able and willing senior should be best given what you know they are capable of handling.
Eating Challenges and Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s brings challenges to eating and drinking habits. Keeping a routine established will help the senior feel less overwhelmed. Offering a couple of different foods at a time that are easy to eat and use utensils will be best to provide a less stressful mealtime.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s tend to have a reduced sense of taste and smell. There are a few extra measures that can be done to combat this. One way is to check the temperature of the food. Decreasing the temperature on cold foods, and increasing on warm meals can greatly impact the taste of it.
Another tactic is with spices. Herbs and spices can influence the taste of the meal without causing blood pressure to rise. Oregano and basil are great for Greek and Italian dishes, as well as cilantro for Mexican, Latin American, and Asian. Dill weed is great to add to vegetables, rice, or fish. Vinegar and citrus fruit zest are options low in sodium.
If a recipe doesn’t succeed to please the palate of your loved one, try, try again! The texture is another aspect of food that many don’t always think about. Softer foods may be easiest for them to eat, but some slightly crunchier vegetables might be a good way to give them variety. Colors within the dish also give the plate a vibrant and enticing look.
Dining and Life Enrichment at Kensington Place
At Kensington Place, our in-house chef specializes in cultivating dishes rich in taste for all appetites, dietary needs, nutrition, and most importantly, the taste buds. Our daily menu provides a wide variety of meals, with specialties such as prime rib and grilled salmon.
There is never a dull dish from our dining services. We work with individual needs and preferences to ensure they’re satisfied and continue eating well.
Our life enrichment programs offer group and individual activities that include some cooking. Kneading dough, baking, and other tasks stimulate the brain at all levels of memory loss. In a safe, warm, and inviting environment, seniors with memory loss can build confidence in themselves and interact positively.
If you would like to learn more about Kensington Place, our dining, or life enrichment, give us a call today!