On Love, Laughter, Sushi & Dementia

Posted on March 17, 2017


Last night, I had an intense experience of what it means to facilitate a meaningful activity for people living with dementia.

Dementia is sometimes a condition of constant losses. People lose their ability to work, drive, cook, use public transit and be independent, contributing people in their relationships. People lose the ability to initiate and enjoy the activities they always loved. I see people’s self-esteem getting deeply impacted. These losses are especially significant for people l/w Young Onset Dementia as they may be in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s!

At The Boomers Club*, we try to negate the feelings of loss. Our activities are based on two things, (A) Does it exploit the existing capacities, and (B) Is it fun? We also allow our volunteers and participants to recommend activities.

At the recommendation of a volunteer, we organized a sushi-making session that took place last night. Our very talented volunteer, Allie, shopped for the materials required and prepped the rice at home.

We’d set up a fabulous 10-mat station. The excitement and trepidation were palpable. I had to actually ask the participants to be quiet so that they could hear Chef Allie give instructions. And as she began to speak, dementia left the room. Enter concentration, focus, determination.

C7Eyn1zVAAAJTI-As participants began to pat out the rice and add yams, avocados and seaweed, I could see their eyes widen with curiosity of what lay ahead. And as they began rolling up, I could see the jubilation and celebration intensify. There were smiles, high-fives and hugs all around. We cut them out and put them in plates. The wasabi, soy sauce and mayo completed the gastronomic experience. The final product was yummmmmmmy!!

C7EyzLbVsAAcM1sWhat struck me was the patience and interest demonstrated by the participants. They encouraged and admired each other’s work. People tried each other’s rolls and compared the minuscule differences in approach.

Here are some of the things participants l/w dementia told me after:

“I love being here. This feels like second home. Thank you for having me!”

“Can I please have the step-by-step recipe? I would have never believed I’d eat all those ingredients! It’s yummy!”

“I have never had anything like this before! It’s so good!”

“Usually when I cook, I mess everything up. I burn things.”

“What are we making next time?”

One of the participants, she is new-ish to the group, helped clean up the entire place. She kept saying, “This is the least I can do!”

The number of thank yous and hugs and smiles were deeply rewarding. Chef Allie got a standing ovation from our crowd!

Here’s why the activity worked:

  1. It was simple.
  2. The lead volunteer was well-prepared.
  3. There was enough help readily available.
  4. Food brings people together.
  5. There was a clear beginning and an end.
  6. There was a sense of accomplishment.
  7. They could eat their hard work!
  8. It focussed specifically on a capacity that they may have lost and allowed them to feel good about themselves.
  9. It was tactile.
  10. It was guided.

Thank you to our volunteers Allie and Cassandra for making this event a smashing success!

{About The Boomers Club: It is a wellness program for people living with Young Onset Dementia (under 65) and their care partners. In the spring and fall, we meet weekly for 8 weeks. The rest of the year, we meet monthly. This group is ever growing (in numbers) and ever evolving (in operation) based on the individual and collective needs of its participants. We organize a lot of fun activities like drumming, laughter yoga, etc., and play a lot of games. We also have a component of exercise to encourage participants to move. Contact the Alzheimer Society of Toronto at 416.322.6560 to know more}





Posted in: Dementia