cooking with Alzheimer’s – chicken

every time we get a new resident, the family fills out some forms that help us get to know them better. it asks about what types of assistance they require, important people in their life, what movies or music they are fond of, what kind of things cause them stress, their eating preferences, what age they think they are, and other things like that. all the staff are supposed to read it to help us in our interactions with the new resident. the food preferences page is most useful for the kitchen staff, although sometimes people’s preferences can change from what they used to be.

sometimes I don’t have time to read those information packets right away though, so then I just go by the diet order we receive for the resident (regular, chopped, fine chopped, puree, plus any food allergies).

one day a new resident named Lisa arrived. she was wheelchair-bound and a bit flustered by her new surroundings, which often happens on a resident’s first day in a new place. her diet orders were chopped with no known food allergies. at lunch she only ate a little bit.

dinner came around, and it was chicken marsala, so I made Lisa a plate of chopped chicken, asparagus, and mashed potatoes. Lisa was still a bit on edge, so one of the nurses was sitting with her and trying to help her eat her dinner. I finished up serving all the dinner plates, and went to wash some dishes while everyone ate.

suddenly, I heard someone yelling and crying from the dining room. I went to take a look. it was Lisa! she was terribly upset and bawling at the dinner table. one of the nurses came over and told me, “Wing! you made Lisa cry! she hasn’t eaten chicken since she was a little girl, because she saw her father slaughter a chicken and never wanted to eat it again!”

I felt pretty terrible. I hadn’t had a chance to read Lisa’s information packet yet, so I had no idea that chicken could be traumatic for her! anyway, I found some non-chicken food for her to eat and eventually she calmed down. after that, there was a running joke in the kitchen about how I made residents cry!

later on we found out, she was actually okay eating chicken as long as you didn’t tell her it was chicken. just like we had another lady who insisted she didn’t eat fish, but she ate it up if you didn’t tell her it was fish.

disclaimer: names and other details have been changed in these stories.