Has your loved one with dementia gone off meals? Perhaps they’ve lost confidence in the kitchen? Care providers Seniors Helping Seniors provide some suggestions…

The whole mealtime experience is one of the most important contributions to an elderly person’s health and happiness. However, if your loved one with dementia is struggling in the kitchen, or not sure what to cook, here are some ideas.

Go slow…cooking

Slow cookers are a great tool because they are safe and cheap to run. Even if nothing has been cooked in the kitchen for years or the gas has been turned off for safety reasons, slow cookers are a great option. Food doesn’t burn in slow cookers (so long as they have enough liquid in them) so you don’t have to worry about food being left for hours.

>> SHOP: EATING PRODUCTS

Your loved one can simply plug in the cooker, just like a light, and there is only one pot to wipe clean. It’s an easy way to cook tasty food that even frail appetites will appreciate. But even more useful, using a slow cooking heat creates soft food that’s much easier to chew (swallowing and chewing can become more difficult as dementia progresses). It also means you can use cheaper cuts of meat that would be tough through normal cooking, but which become tenderer once you’ve cooked them for hours, thereby saving your money.

All in all, slow cookers are ideal while the weather is cold outside, and can be set off in the morning and left to cook away until the afternoon or early evening.

>> SHOP: EAT WELL SET - AN UNFORGETTABLE EXCLUSIVE

Discover food memories

Smells and tastes have the power to rekindle deep memories and wellbeing. Seniors Helping Seniors providers are passionate about food and always start by stimulating appetites through memories. They talk about personal food memories, remember family gatherings and special recipes and then help the produce these meals again, in their own kitchens. The result? People are well nourished and excited about meal times again.

If you’re trying to do the same, think about what your loved one would have eaten when they were growing up? Think classic meat and two veg – chicken pie or mulligatawny soup, and hearty desserts like jam roly poly or apple crumble. Remember, ‘foreign’ dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese or curry didn’t really become popular until the 1960s. However, even what today we might consider as ‘dated’ dishes such as prawn cocktail or quiche, would probably be popular dishes for someone with dementia, as they’re more likely to be living in that era.

Make food shopping an event

Seniors Helping Seniors providers can help with food shopping, and so making an event out of it is a great way to stimulate interest in food. They’ll often sit down with someone to discuss treasured recipes, write a shopping list, go shopping together, select the ingredients and then help prepare the food.

>> SHOP: NON-SLIP TABLE SETTING PLACE MAT

Helping someone with dementia to cook, or encouraging them to take part in food preparation while you cook for them (even if it’s peeling carrots or stirring a cooking pot) can be extremely empowering.

Feeling inspired? Try some of these popular slow cooker recipes

Slow cooked minestrone soup
Makes 4-6 servings
Suitable for freezing
Preparation time: about 30min
Cook: 1½ hours on Low

Ingredients
1tbsp olive oil or butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
100 g (3 ½ oz pancetta or streaky bacon)
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 x tin (400g/ 140z) chopped tomatoes
1 x tin (400g/14oz) cannellini beans, drained
1 litre (1 ¾ pints) organic vegetable stock or any other organic stock
½ Savoy cabbage, shredded
75 g (2½ oz) pasta or pearl barley or macaroni

Method
1.    Fry onion, garlic and bacon for 5-10 minutes until golden
2.    Add carrots and celery and fry for a further 5 minutes.
3.    Transfer to a slow cooker, add tomatoes, beans, vegetable stock, cabbage and pasta and stir together. If you don’t have a slow cooker, cook on the hob on a low heat.
4.    Cook on Low for 1½ hours.

>> SHOP: BLUE ADAPTIVE CROCKERY SET

Slow cooked Lancashire Hot Pot
Preparation time: about 20min
Cook: 4hr

Ingredients
750g boneless leg of lamb, diced (1.5 to 2lbs)
50g plain flour (2oz)
2 onions, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 carrot, cubed
100g swede, cubed (3oz)
30ml dry sherry (1.5 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon prepared English mustard
1 large pinch ground nutmeg
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
400ml beef stock (3/4 pint)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
450g potatoes, peeled and sliced (1lb)
2 tablespoons butter

Method
1.    Preheat the slow cooker to High setting.
2.    Coat the lamb with flour then combine all of the ingredients (except the potato slices and butter) in the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper.
3.    Cover with potato slices then dot with butter and season.
4.    Cover the slow cooker and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours. The lamb and potatoes should be tender. Serve hot.
5.    If you don’t have a slow cooker, use a ovenproof casserole dish,

We have included “old money” measurements in our recipes, not because we doubt people’s ability with metrics but because working in ounces, pounds, pints and tablespoons may feel more comfortable and this is all about making people feel confident at home.

A version of this article first appeared on http://www.seniorshelpingseniors.co.uk/.
Seniors Helping Seniors is an at-home care service providing support for older people in areas such as meal preparation, shopping, transportation, gardening and house maintenance.