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Happy birthday, Dad!



If there was ever a moment for cake and more cake, my Dad’s 80th birthday was it – although it could be argued that our game of Pass the Parcel, with a little chocolate between the wrappers, was the moment that provided the most joy and entertainment. Dad looked positively heartbroken as the music kept playing and he had to let the package move on…

We decided to keep the celebrations last Sunday simple, with party games, traditional afternoon tea sandwiches, trifle and cakes, as we have a summer party planned when we hope to enjoy more of the activities Dad loves. The clues are in the decorations on his birthday cake, which featured his favourite sports – Dad was a fine tennis player, cricketer and football referee in his younger days.

Like many people living with dementia, my dad has an incredible sweet tooth – before the start of any meal, he wants to know what’s for pudding. Whether it’s my mum cooking for him, or me, we try to provide a protein-rich savoury first course, as this helps with the absorption of any sugar in his dessert. And we make any sweet treat as nourishing as possible, so it might be poached nectarines or baked peaches (the cooking intensifies the flavours and natural sweetness), ice cream or sorbet made with berries or honey, or my Dad’s favourite coffee and walnut cake, where the protein-rich nuts help to lessen any sugar rush.

Of course, we want my dad to enjoy his food and to choose what he would like to eat, but we’re also aware that his dementia means he often forgets if he’s already enjoyed a portion of pudding or cake, so asks for more. I don’t want him to pile on weight around his middle and increase the risk of stroke, diabetes, or further heart disease complications, so I try to explain calmly what he’s already had and lead him away from temptation by distracting him with a different activity. And if that’s another game of Pass the Parcel, all the better…

Related recipes
Poached Nectarines in Apple Juice
Baked Amaretti Peaches
Honey Ice Cream
Strawberry Yoghurt Fool
Dad’s Favourite Coffee & Walnut Cake

Jane Clarke with father and mother


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