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Alzheimer Activity - In the Kitchen with Tator Tots

Posted by on 1/22/2015 to Dementia Activities
This recipe offers a great way to engage the person with Alzheimer's in meal. The tasks can be adapted to meet the needs of higher or lower stage of dementia.

Tator Tot 'Hot Dish' Activity for Alzheimer's

First, I must own up to the fact that I live 'up north' in Minnesota where we often use the term hot dish instead of casserole?  Why?  I have no idea, other than it can get very cold here in winter and the idea of a hot dish is very enticing!

Here is the recipe and below are ideas of how the person with dementia can be suppported  to help with this meal preparation at their own activity level. The recipe has been written step by step, so if you print this, the person may be able to follow along.  It can also help harried caregivers who don't have time to figure recipes out!  Cooking should be supervised for safety and hands should be carefully washed beforehand.


  • 1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
  • 1 package frozen tator tots
  • 1 can cheddar cheese soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can or small frozen bag veggie of choice (beans, peas, corn, mixed, etc.)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brown the beef over medium heat. Turn off the heat when brown.
  3. Carefully drain the hot grease
  4. Mix these items together in a large bowl. Stir until well mixed.
    • Cooked ground beef
    • Half the package of frozen tator tots
    • Can of cheddar cheese soup
    • Can of cream of mushroom soup
    • Can or bag of vegetables
  5. Grease a 9 X 13 casserole dish with butter or non-stick spray
  6. Spread the mixture from the large bowl into the casserole dish.
  7. Spread the remaining tator tots on the top of the casserole.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

How the Person with Alzheimer's Can Help

Earlier Stage Alzheimer's (Early Activity Level)

  • At this stage, the person may be able to follow along with the recipe, with your guidance, one step at a time.  Steps have been numbered so the caregiver can say "read Step 2" and then help accomplish that step.
  • Have the person gather the ingredients, following the list. Cue to the correct location in the kitchen, as needed.
  • Using your judgement and supervision, have the person stir the beef as it cooks.
  • Optional: Pour the full bag of tator tots into one large bowl or pan and have the person separate them into 2 piles, as the recipe calls for using only 1/2 at a time.
  • Have the person pour each item into the large bowl for mixing, following the list above.  Cue with your words and through pointing to get all items added.
  • Have the person stir and then pour ingredients into the pan, then top with tator tots.  Again, cue to each step, as needed.

Later Stage Alzheimer's (Middle Activity Level)

  • At this stage, the person can only do tasks one step at a time.  His or her attention may be short, so may need re-direction or a reminder to keep going (i.e. when stirring) or to not leave the task. The person may enjoy handling, sorting, and counting the tator tots.
  • Using your judgement and supervision, have the person stir the beef as it cooks. Safety is even more of a concern at this level.  The person might try to touch the pan to see if has heated up - monitor very closely or do the stovetop part yourself.
  • Optional: Have the person count the tator tots  or even just some of them.  It could be putting into piles of 5 or 10 or however the person wants to count them.  The frozen tator tots are easy to hold and can give a little extra activity through counting or when taking them out of the bag.
  • Have the person scrape out the can of soup or vegetables into the bowl after you have opened it. Monitor for safety on the sharp can edges.  Also, ensure that all is scraped out of the can before moving to the next step.
  • Have the person stir together all ingredients. Cue them to 'keep stirring'! if he/she stops.
  • Have the person spread the tator tots across the top.  Again, the person can work to place the tator tots one by one and can line them up neatly (or messy), as they wish.  Some will do this with amazing effort !

Preparing this dish can be a great activity to do together, with a feeling of  pride and accomplishment for the person with dementia.  And eating it together is it's own treat - you can't beat browned tator tots!

Want more easy activity ideas to do with the person with dementia?  Join our Facebook community and/or Pinterest board!

Follow MindStart - Alzheimer Activities 's board Alzheimer Activities on Pinterest.

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