Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cooking Lessons

Our Thanksgiving Stuffing
For fifty years, Mom was the one who handled all of the cooking and all of the holiday preparations. She is the only person I know who can make a Thanksgiving dinner for thirty people, on her own, and have everything done to perfection and on the table at the exact same time. However, over the past three years, that has changed, and now Dad does all of the cooking and family helps out on holidays.

Mom still loves to cook though, so around the holidays we try to make sure she can make some of the things she likes. My sister has been having her over for a few weekends to bake the Thanksgiving bread together. Today Mom and Dad were cooking the stuffing together, and lets just say it was an experience.

When Mom works with my sister, all goes well. My sister is very patient, writes out everything step-by-step, works slow, is organized, and never looses her temper with Mom. She knows the correct way to help allow Mom be engaged and still do things she loves.

On the other hand, my Dad and I are the opposite of my sister. We have much less patience, less organization, and we work faster. When Mom is subjected to cooking with either one of us, it can be stressful at times. This is something we keep working on and we are glad my sister can give us a good example to follow. My first cooking lesson to help people with dementia to slow down, be organized, and be patient. 

Besides the pace and style of working together, I learned another lesson of how dementia makes it a bit harder to cook with Mom.

Following recipes has become very hard for Mom. When we have recipes that are short and well laid out, that is a big help. However the stuffing recipe today had two recipes on the back of the package and conversions based on how many servings you need to make. Not really an easy recipe to follow.

So today Dad was trying to follow the recipe, Mom was telling him he was doing it wrong, he was telling her she was doing it wrong, and I was just watching.

What we finally realized was Mom has made the same stuffing, from the same package, for fifty years, but she did not follow the recipe as it is written on the back. We did not figure out until a while into the process that Mom was not confused at all. She was remembering what she used to do and that is why the recipe did not make sense to her.

There have been other times while cooking when Mom was not remembering correctly and she would make a recipe wrong by following what she thought was right rather than following the recipe. Today was not one of those times though. How do we know when the dementia is causing a problem, or when she really remembers what she used to do if all we have is a recipe that we are supposed to follow?

My second lesson in cooking with a person with dementia is not to always assume they are wrong, even if they are not following the recipe as written.

We feel bad that the experience was stressful for both Mom and Dad today, although now we are all laughing about it. I have a feeling there will be many times like this to come in the future but hopefully our humor will outweigh the stress.

Rev. Katie

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