“Keep on Cooking”
A diagnosis of dementia can sometime be viewed at scary, for both the individual and their loved ones. It is easy for someone with a diagnosis to lose confidence in their own abilities and families and carers may be tempted to wrap the individual in cotton wool. At Alzheimer Scotland and in my role as an occupational therapy student, we promote continuous participation and independence for as long as it is possible.
Whilst at a post diagnostic support group in my first week at Alzheimer Scotland as an occupational therapy student, I was approached by a daughter concerned about her mother’s welfare; she was looking for ways to stop her mother cooking as she worried that she would endanger herself.
Without thinking I gave ideas like removing visual triggers such as pots and pans, disconnecting the gas cooker and investing in aids that immobilised cooker knobs and oven doors (as well as seeking an occupational therapy assessment from her local social services); but what if cooking is important for her mother?
What if, cooking symbolises her mums role as a parent, a caregiver and a provider? As an aspiring occupational therapist should I not instead look for ways to enable safe participation in meaningful occupation instead of putting up barriers? After discussions with my practice educator I decided to explore ways to encourage individuals to continue cooking for as long as it’s safe and if still provided personal meaning to the person. Here are were some of my five top tips to keep cooking
- Let there be light!
Ensure windows are clean and allow as much natural light into the room as possible! An optimum level of light can reduce levels of anxiety and help an individual make sense of the environment.
- Too much going on!
People living with dementia may experience moments of a lapse in concentration and may find it difficult to make sense of what’s going on around them. Try to reduce any unnecessary clutter so it’s easier to understand the environment. Reduce background noise like TVs and radio’s so it’s easier to concentrate and there are less distractions.
- Keep it Clear!
It may be easier for people living with dementia to keep track of what they are doing if there are visual prompts. Try labelling drawers (pictorial & written labels), replacing cupboard doors with a see through alternative and leaving utensils and materials that are often used in plain sight.
- Find a personal solution
Lists and recipes make things easier by writing down the steps you will need to complete the task and it can be used to guide you through the different tasks in making something with the use of timer and alarms to remind you when a task is complete There is a lot of equipment available to make cooking easier, from perching stools, kettle tippers and adapted cutlery and utensils.
- Being prepared
Prep- If you wish to make a cooking task easier or reduce the number of steps it may be a good idea to use pre-cut vegetable and meat or microwaveable rice etc. Also consider the time of day you want to cook, some people may find things easier at certain times of the day
Finding ways to remain independent in the kitchen can improve self-esteem, build confidence, stimulate the mind and help retain skills for as long as possible. I have shared with you five of my ideas and you will have your own.
I would welcome you feedback on
- What do you think about my five ideas?
- Can you add ideas of how to continue using the kitchen when living with dementia?
If an individual or their family member is worried about safety in the kitchen they shouldn’t hesitate to seek an occupational therapy assessment in order to discuss individual solutions tailored to your own needs, hopes and home environment.
Student Occupational Therapist
My name is Nicole Kane and I am a fourth year Occupational therapy student at Queen Margaret University. I am currently with Alzheimer Scotland for 8 weeks completing my final placement. I am based at the Lanarkshire Resource Centre in Motherwell and have been involved in dementia services in both North and South Lanarkshire. My role within this placement is providing an occupation focused perspective to Alzheimer Scotland services.