Cooking with Dementia (aka: Hamburger Helper Blues)

Community Member

I am a little frustrated right now with cooking.   I have finally begun to have enough energy to do a little cooking.   Most of the time, I prepare dishes from memory, like cooking a roast, chicken, or hamburgers/hotdogs, making mashed potatoes, cooking rice, making chili or soup, and heating up canned vegetables.   These are what make up most of the meals my husband and I have.   But, there are times that I want something different.

Having dementia means having short term memory loss.   What the normal person takes for granted can "bust the butt" of those who are challenged with little short term memory. For anyone who has never experienced this, here is what happens when I try to cook something as simple as Hamburger Helper: (the amounts may not be accurate I can't remember exactly what they are and it's not important in this example.)

1. Brown 1 pound of hamburger"this part is easy.

2. Add water"how much?   Look at the instructions.   I need a two cup measuring cup.   Okay"now, how much water?   Look at the instructions again.   2 ½ cups water.   Hot water.   Do I have to heat the hot water from the tap?   Is it hot enough?   Hmm"guess not.   Now, how much water?   Look at box again.   Oh yeah, 2 ½ cups water.   Okay.   I measure 2 ½ cups.   Now what do I do?   Look at box again.   Add to drained meat.   Okay.   Now what?   Look at box again.   Add sauce mix and rice.   I dump out all the packages from the box.   There are four.   Which one(s) do I need first?   Look at directions again.   I need the sauce and rice.   I set these two aside and get scissors to cut off the tops.   I cut off the tops and pour into the pan.   And then I stir.   Now what?   Look at the box again.   Bring to a boil and lower temperature.   Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.   I wait for it to boil, and I lower the temperature.   Do I cover it?   I don't remember reading that.   I reread the box and find that indeed I do need to cover it, which I do.   Now, how long do I set the timer for?   Look at the box again.   15 minutes.   Then, I let it cook for fifteen minutes until the timer goes off.   Never once did I stir it, as the box requested.   Times up.   I have two packs left from the box.   Where do they go?   Topping directions:   Add 1 cup of milk, stir for 30 seconds, and let stand.   I do that, a little late, but"better late than never.   I drizzle it over the top.   Now, I reread the directions for the thousandth time to find out that I should have waited.   I should have sprinkled the fourth pack of dorito-type stuff over the top and THEN drizzled the cheese topping.   Oh well, on goes the dorito topping"once it goes into the mouth, it all gets mixed up anyways

I hope I haven't bored you with my rendition of the Hamburger Helper Blues"   I am hoping that you see how something as simple as Hamburger Helper can be a real challenge for those of us with short term memory loss!