With meal preparation part of her NDIS plan, client Vanessa has been spending every Thursday with Assured Support Worker Bec, cooking up tasty meals for the days ahead.
“The aim is to create a menu that’s reasonably balanced, with recipes simple enough that Vanessa can help prepare,” explains Bec.
“We want Vanessa to be as involved as possible, being mindful of her limited fine motor skills.”
Over a period of 5 years, Vanessa experienced a series of strokes that caused injury to her brain and resulted in aphasia, which impacted her communication and speech, as well as her fine motor skills.
“Chopping veggies, for example, can be hard for Vanessa,” says Bec.
“But stirring something while it cooks, or adding toppings, she can easily do.”
For this reason, homemade pizzas have become a bit of a staple.
“I never really liked cooking before,” Vanessa admits honestly.
But, now the pair have had a lot of fun planning Vanessa’s meals and putting things together -even when recipes haven’t always worked out, as was the case with one infamously ‘impossible quiche’.
“It was the first meal we made together,” Bec explains.
“The recipe ended up being way more complicated than I was expecting and it just didn’t work out.”
“It fell apart!” Vanessa laughs.
“But we’ve done better since then,” says Bec.
“We’ve made beef stir-fry, sausage rolls, meat stew, chicken carbonara…”
A Balanced Diet
Part of the focus of their planning is finding foods Vanessa can be excited about, while still being reasonably balanced.
“Ultimately, we create a menu based on foods Vanessa likes, with a healthy twist,” says Bec, who spends much of her own time researching recipes or looking for inspiration.
“Taste.com, Jamie Oliver and the Woolworth’s website are my go-to sources,” she says.
“Sometimes, other support workers also pass on great recipe ideas, or I might see something good on TV.”
Bec takes her brainstorming seriously, carrying a small notebook with her at all times to jot down ideas, knowing full-well a good suggestion can come at the most unexpected of times.
“I recently overheard Vanessa talking about cob roll in her sleep!” Bec laughs.
“It took me a while to figure out what she was saying but, when she woke up, I confirmed with her, it was indeed cob rolls,” she says, “Which is great, because there are so many fun cob roll recipes out there.”
Reaching for her notebook, Bec pulls out multiple recipes, from soup bowls, to mac and cheese, to various pizza fillings, cheesy pull-apart garlic bread. And, of course, Vanessa’s favourite, simple bacon and eggs.
So what’s on the menu for tonight?
Chicken carbonara pizza’s, with three cheese sauce, according to Bec.
What is Aphasia?
Commonly, aphasia results from an injury to the brain, typically through stroke or a head injury, although it can also result from a brain tumor, or degenerative brain condition. The severity of aphasia can vary, with impacts on comprehension, expression, communication and speech. It can also result in partial paralysis, or weakness.
Brain Injury SA is the recognised peak body for those who have experienced an acquired brain injury, and those who care for them. The association provides a range of services and programs that help connect those affected by an ABI.