At Anthem Memory Care communities, the kitchen is a warm, happy gathering place where staff, residents and families are encouraged to bake together. A great example of this is the weekly Girl Scout visit to Harvester Place Memory Care, an Anthem community in Burr Ridge, Illinois. The girls join the residents every Thursday to bake cookies and enjoy each other’s company. A great example of this is the weekly Girl Scout visits to Harvester Place Memory Care, an Anthem community in Burr Ridge, Illinois. The girls join the residents every Thursday to bake cookies and enjoy each other's company.
During a recent visit the Chicago Tribune was on hand to take photos and interview Executive Director, Jennifer Mallo, and others. The reporter asked Jennifer how she feels the experience benefits the residents. "If you think about dementia, you have to think about the concept of sensory," Jennifer told the reporter. "You think about their smell, their taste, the things that make them happy. It's basically all about what would make them happy and what tastes and smells make them feel good."
In fact, there are numerous studies over the years which have found that the act of cooking and baking can, indeed, have a beneficial effect on individuals challenged by Alzheimer's disease. The familiar process of working with food stimulates old senses and can give them a sense of purpose in addition to soothing anxiety.
For the families, seeing a loved one kneading dough or whisking eggs in a bowl can evoke happy memories of their childhoods. The son of one of the residents noted that he was glad to see his mom baking again. "She used to be a very good baker. She used to make homemade bread that was unbelievable. She should do pineapple upside down cakes, which was every year for my birthdays. she was just an all around good cook." he said.
As Jennifer Mallo noted, "At the end of the day, its' rewarding because we're giving residents a sense of purpose that they otherwise would not have had," she said. "We're just making a life for them that they wouldn't be able to have otherwise."
If you have a loved one challenged by dementia who once enjoyed cooking or baking, consider setting some time aside to work through a simple recipe together. The simple act of working alongside each other and the aromas in the air may help both of you reconnect in ways you never knew were possible.