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What an exciting few months it has been! Something very unexpected happened—I began to work with a concept that flourished and transformed into a special event. It also has turned into a companion for caregivers using the Power of 5 Test Kitchen Cookbook.

The new program is called Purposeful Engagement through Food and Meal Preparation for the Caregiver and those with Dementia. It incorporates purposeful engagement and socialization through food and cooking. I specifically designed it for those caring for individuals with neurodegenerative disease such as dementia, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s disease, and other disorders.

The goal is for caregivers to feel comfortable bringing the individuals they care for into the kitchen to have a positive cooking experience.

Using My Experience to Develop Something New

As a seasoned occupational therapist, I have had a wonderfully diverse career. Over the last more-than-thirty-five years, my vast experiences have included corporate management, business operations, clinical and consulting experience in pediatrics, geriatric rehabilitation, and rehab management in long-term care, assisted living, home health and outpatient rehab settings.

As a consultant, I specialized in all aspects of “the business” of rehabilitation. These included operations assessment and development, strategic planning, management training, compliance, coding and billing issues, as well as merger acquisition assistance.

In 2000, I founded an e-learning education company called Dynamic Learning Online, Inc., which I pioneered until 2015. It was a first-of-its-kind learning platform providing online courses to healthcare professionals (PT, OT, SLP, AT and Guardians) to meet their licensure and certification requirements.

In 2015, Dynamic Learning transitioned to become the publisher and promoter of How We All Can Live a Healthier Life and AGE GRACEfully® along with my husband, David Bernstein, MD.

Incorporating the Power of 5

Since then, I’ve been blogging about healthy eating and posting nutritious recipes. Later, I became a certified vegan chef! The ideas inspiring me sprouted from Dr. B’s book The Power of 5: The Ultimate Formula for Longevity and Remaining Youthful. This book describes the 5 S’s we need to increase or decrease to support healthy aging. These include MORE Sleep, Sweat, and Socialization and LESS Stress and Sweets. Our kitchen became my test kitchen, and we affectionately call it The Power of 5 Test Kitchen!

The Sweets “S” represents the realm of healthy eating as described in Part 2 of the book called, “Putting Healthy Eating to Practice.” This section provides sample menus/recipes for healthy eating. It also advocates a Mediterranean-eating lifestyle. My recipes offer multiple healthy eating lifestyle choices. Each recipe has a variety of options under “Melissa’s Modifications” where ingredient choices can be made per recipe based on your particular preference, whether you are vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, gluten-free, or more.

Activities of Daily Living

As a trained occupational therapist, I feel I have come full circle, drawing from the essence of my degree in occupational therapy and what we do as healthcare professionals. We help people across their lifespan to engage and participate in things they need or want to do through therapeutic use of everyday Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). These include dressing, bathing, personal hygiene, functional mobility, cooking, and eating/feeding—the “occupation” of living.

This concept and my subsequent program development focus on care of others and meal preparation. Both are higher-level ADLs that encourage participation and engagement.

Looking Forward to More from the Power of 5 Test Kitchen

I hope that the Power of 5 Test Kitchen Cookbook: Caregiver Edition will be a useful guide for caregivers to allow for greater possibilities in the kitchen. Any involvement is meaningful, so we look forward to using this resource to encourage involvement, socialization, reminiscing, and fun for any skill level.

The Power of 5 Test Kitchen is my happy place, and I am proud of each recipe creation. I know it may be daunting to do a simple cooking activity with someone in your care; however, the potential benefits may outweigh the apprehension.

Meal planning, cooking, and eating together are beneficial for social engagement. These are rewarding and fulfilling activities for both the caregiver and individual. Remember to take it slow, step by step, and have fun!
Guided Power of 5 Test Kitchen cooking demonstrations are available along with consultation. In addition, Train the Trainer programs for ongoing programming in memory care facilities are also now available.

Your kitchen can be a place where fun and health flourish, no matter the challenges you face. Get started today!

To Healthy Eating!


PS: Remember to follow me in the Power of 5 Test Kitchen and join in the happenings!

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