A recipe with checkboxes next to each item, a meal kit box bursting with fresh produce, and individually packaged ingredients are all shown together.

Meal Preparation with Alzheimer's

Last updated: September 2022

A month or two ago, a friend shared a delightful peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe - seriously, they're the best. While I do not understand the internal experience of living with Alzheimer's disease, I do live with severe ADHD, which makes following recipes a challenge for me.

It takes forever as I have to read and re-read and re-reread the instructions. I mess up often and call my mom upstairs for help, and I sometimes can't remember if I put all 3 cups of flour in or 4...

Well, you probably get what I'm saying.

Recipe preparation for those living with Alzheimer's

I would anticipate that many of these challenges are also faced by people with Alzheimer's and can be difficult to navigate — especially if the person has a strong history of being a kitchen pro. And if so, please, I need them to call me because I am not.

Now, back to that cookie recipe and the inspiration for this whole article. Do you know what made this delicious cookie recipe such a delight to make? Checkboxes!

The advantages of checkboxes

The webpage had checkboxes for each of the ingredients. And when I added them to the bowl, I physically checked them off! No second-guessing if I had added the vanilla (okay, well one time, I added 4 times the amount of vanilla, whoops – it was still fine!) or the baking soda.

This is a strategy that could, with a bit of creativity, be used with anything from digital recipes to the old box of family recipe cards. Get some clear binder dividers or other clear plastic and cut it to size for the recipe cards or printouts, so it's dry-erase marker-friendly.

Preparing recipes ahead of time

Things always go better when I get my ingredients out before I start mixing them. Again, once it's in, it's in, and I know that it's done with. While some people with Alzheimer's may be able to do this independently, others may need assistance. Once the ingredients are ready to go, for a lot of recipes, it's just about mixing them together and preparing the pan.

Look - I know they say to mix wet and dry ingredients separately, but I have never had my failures related to that, even if mistakes happen.

Meal preparation with Alzheimer's

For full meals or things made often... Well, having prepped ingredients in pre-set amounts is also the joy of those meal-kit boxes, isn't it?

For some folks who find the preparation more challenging than the actual cooking, pre-measuring ingredient boxes may also allow for certain recipes to be prepared with a degree of independence. After all, "dump all these ingredients into the pan" is certainly a lot less overwhelming!

This is also a productive task to do together. As long as they don't end up hidden in the back of the fridge! Making a visual reminder or menu list might help here, or a phone call is a good alternative! I regularly hear my mom or aunt calling my grandma, who continues to live independently, to remind her to "either use that ground beef or put it in the freezer!"

Easing meal preparation with Alzheimer's

I love baking (and making things in my Instant Pot), but given my ADHD and executive function challenges, I understand how difficult it can be. I can understand that this only becomes more difficult when you add the various symptoms of Alzheimer's disease to the mix.

These are just a few strategies that have helped me and could help others caring for people with memory challenges in providing a more "hands-off" way with recipe preparation. Adjustments will always have to be made to our unique situations, and of course, using simple or familiar recipes is a key to success, too!

What strategies have you found to make cooking or meal preparation with Alzheimer's disease easier? I would love to hear them in the comments or share your story with the community.

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