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Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Heartwarming, Body-building Look at Alzheimer's Disease and...


15 Tevet, 5776

My friend Miriam Green has a noteworthy blog about how she helps her mother, who has Alzheimer's. The blog is entitled The Lost Kitchen. It is heartwarming. and nutritious. I feel like a better person after reading each new blogpost.

Miriam asked me to write a blogpost she could share, about my experience in such matters. Here we go:

In the USA I supplemented my income by working as a recreational therapist in a nursing home which had a designated Alzheimer's unit.

I would do warm-up exercises with people struggling to read, to remember names and faces. Once I had the crowd keeping a beat (usually with Madonna music), I would speak in a soft, sometimes funny banter to rev up their motivation to keep moving. Exercise oxygenates the brain and charges up its activity. We did stretches, bends, light aerobics and even a bit of dancing.

Sometimes I'd set up a frame to enable people with impaired balance or movement to use a lightweight bowling ball that knocked down pins within rather easy reach. The group celebrated successes together. Inevitably, someone would choose to keep score and boost morale by announcing them. LOUDLY.

If bowling bored the participants, I'd tease the men to play some poker and to show up a dumb broad. They'd eagerly let me deal the cards, declare the rules (I kept them simple) and then they proceeded to demonstrate their card-playing tricks, techniques they hadn't used or thought of in ages! Many smiles creased tired, careworn faces as a result.

Women sometimes baked with me. I'd use the aromas of our dough and various bottles of vanilla, mint, perfume, etc. to perk up long-ago memories. I learned of Brooklyn's background and the impact of the World War II in ways that no history book can teach. I heard of courtships, anniversaries, favorite recipes, and other celebrations of life. And I dabbed quite a few tears on several faces with handy tissues kept for the occasion.

At other times I placed a person's hands on the handle of a real shopping wagon, and walked through a mock supermarket with my Alzheimer's-afflicted companion. We'd select foods, discuss the freshness of the produce, pay the cashier, and put things away in a mock kitchen. Then we'd either cook or converse about life in an environment designed to resemble a private home.

By allowing these people with Alzheimer's to function independently, albeit with friendly, protective company, I learned of the power of confidence. It can bestowed and it can improve thinking skills. It is a most precious gift, a blessing.

Tears sometimes fell from my eyes after the group either cooked a good soup and shared it with one another, or made cakes and cookies. A hearty soup and hunk of bread make a deeply satisfying meal to gladden the heart and to heal the mind. Any recipe prepared with love and devotion can do the same. The people I worked with opened their hearts and spoke of long-ago memories. It was a remarkable experience.

Perhaps you'd like to prepare this pumpkin leek soup in the large white pot in the photograph. It is quite soothing: 

Pumpkin Leek Soup
This soup is a crowd-pleaser on any cold day of the year. 

1 LARGE leek or 3 small leeks (white part only or with finely chopped greens, per diner preferences) chopped
a handful of arame or wakame (2 different kinds of seaweed that add iodine to the soup)
1 LARGE onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 lbs pumpkin, cubed (use flat slices for easier cubing)
4 medium carrots, julienned in bite-size pieces or thinly sliced
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ginger (nutmeg if you like stronger flavors)
½ tsp ground coriander
Himalayan or ocean salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
6 cups water (more for a thinner soup)


Sauté leeks - including the finely chopped greens if you're using them - with the onion and garlic in a large pot until they become translucent. Add the spices with the remaining vegetables (including the seaweed for more nutrition), water and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour until the vegetables, including the greens, are cooked through. 

If someone who will eat the soup needs help with chewing, you can allow the mixture to cool slightly and then blend it with a hand-held blender before ladling it from the pot into soup mugs or bowls. Otherwise, let your diners enjoy the sumptuous texture they'll chew with their teeth. Medical evidence demonstrates that chewing different textures improves brain function.

Include a fresh-made or flavorful store-bought loaf of soft bread on the side and enjoy the hearty, heart-lifting meal.

Have you noticed the jars of home made sauerkraut in the photo?
They were prepared according to macrobiotic recipe. 

The contents are delicious. 
Friends ask me to prepare it for them.

​If you want to learn of other health-promoting ideas, read

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Fill your meals with body-building, health-supporting food.

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