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LIFE STORY and Food!

Excerpts from Social Care Institute

Food can be the perfect opportunity for Life Story detective work! It's so important to understand a person’s connection to food and mealtimes from their life experience. Sharing an old familiar treat can be a perfect way to spark conversation and make getting nourishment a pleasant experience for all!

Try this version of a milkshake.....a familiar treat but loaded with protein calcium antioxidants and vitamins....of course helps reduce dehydration!

Blend together 8oz of enriched milk with 1/2 sliced ripe banana

and a cup of frozen berries

Perhaps a person remembers food rationing in wartime. Old recipe books are an excellent prompt to talking about the kind of food people would have eaten or seen prepared when they were younger. Perhaps the person has fond or unpleasant memories of school meals which in itself can draw out preferences for food and eating. Here are some other suggestions for activities:

  • Hold a fish and chip night – even eat the meal out of the paper! This can encourage people to share memories of seaside holidays in years gone by.

  • Find pictures or photographs of the old-fashioned sweets in bottles, for example bull’s eyes, sherbets and pear drops. Buy a selection of old-style sweets and offer people a chance to smell and taste sweets from the past. Perhaps even arrange a trip to an old-fashioned sweet shop!

Activities and conversation based around a person’s memories and life experience can be one way that we learn more about the people we know living with dementia, including their food preferences. If a person is struggling with a poor appetite, this sort of information may help us understand why and is crucial.

Encouraging conversation around food

Food is a great topic for conversation!! Some examples of conversation-starters could be:

  • I Love Coffee in a bug Mug! How do you prefer to drink your tea or coffee – from a cup or a mug? Does it have to be a china cup?

  • We always went to Acme for food shopping! Where did you shop for food?

  • Some people like food shopping on Saturday morning. What day did you go to the market?

  • I grew up in an Italian family and bought lots of ........ What food did you buy?

  • Hmmmm I LOVE Spaghetti and meatballs!!! ......What is your favorite food or meal? Why?

  • Going to the corner candy store was such a treat!! What were your favorite sweets as a child?

The smell of food – such as freshly baked bread or freshly brewed coffee – can evoke memories of the past and is a powerful way of stimulating appetites and conversation. Some examples could be ‘Wow, that coffee smells good’ or ‘The smell of freshly baked scones reminds me of my mum baking on a Saturday.’

Food and being outdoors

A trip to a local garden centre can serve two purposes: it gives the chance to enjoy the plants and greenery, as well as an opportunity to enjoy tea and cake. Getting to know the local area could involve a trip to eat out at a local pub or café. Make the most of good weather in the summertime by eating out in the garden or going to the park for a picnic. This can add another dimension to the eating experience.

Visit: for more of the latest on dementia care best practices

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