Read This Moving Story: Baking Banana Bread with Busha

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When I took care of my grandmother who had a dementia-related illness, she always wanted to bake but could not follow a recipe and also had trouble standing for long periods of time. Busha (or more properly, “Busia” – the Polish word for grandma) always seemed happiest in the kitchen, and I could tell she was frustrated at not being able to cook and bake like she used to.

I’d regretted that I hadn’t gotten “Busha’s Banana Bread Recipe” from her before she could no longer recall it; she’d baked from memory not a cookbook. But I found that if I gave her the bowl and spoon, and brought each ingredient to her where she sat at the table, she could remember what went in (with some prompting) and also she could show me how much she ‘guesstimated’ it needed. She would mix and chat away just like when I was a kid and she was teaching me to bake. I would jot down what we were doing.

In this way, after a few batches, I figured out the proper measurements. I’d collected interesting journal entries as memories were prompted during our baking sessions, and I had time to ask her questions about things from my childhood that I could barely remember but she knew, since the dementia mostly affected her more recent memories. In this way, we accomplished something together, and enjoyed the warm-from-the-oven bread with lots of butter afterward. Baking together reduced my stress and hers, and though she would tease me for being on “gramma-sitting” duty every week while my mom was at work, they are some of my sweetest memories of her now.

And you can bet I wrote that recipe down! (It is the most worn and stained recipe card in my file box!)

Lisa Powers
Grand Rapids, MI
Medianet ALZ