How to Use Culinary Arts to Enrich Life for Someone With Dementia

Learn how to enrich life for someone with dementia through meal preparation.
A caregiver helps an older woman roll out biscuit dough as a way to enrich life for someone with dementia.

There is something so special about the kitchen. It is the first stop kids make when they get home from school, in search of a snack as well as the chance to share about their day. It is the spot family members gather to prepare holiday meals together. It is also a place to heat up a cup of milk and find some quiet, reflective solace when sleep is elusive. It can even enrich life for someone with dementia.

For someone with dementia, the kitchen can evoke precious memories. Cooking engages numerous senses, which makes it an excellent activity to unlock the doors of reminiscence. The sizzle of ingredients in a pan, the rhythmic chopping of veggies, and the enticing scent of a well-seasoned dish can stir positive memories, sparking joy and connection.

If you’d like to add culinary techniques to your dementia care toolbox, these suggestions can help.

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

The end goal should never be to create a Pinterest-worthy culinary production. Instead, focus on each of the senses being used and draw on any memories that may come to the surface.

Perhaps, for example, 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 while you sprinkle it on the dough. Point out the sound of the apples being chopped, the delicious cinnamon butter aroma while the pie bakes. And naturally, enjoy a piece of the finished product together, encouraging any stories along the way that the individual would like to share.

At JFS Care, our knowledgeable dementia caregivers are on hand to incorporate culinary experiences into an older adult’s care plan. Contact us online or call (213)383-2273 for more information on our dementia care services in West Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Santa Monica, and the surrounding areas.