Melissa Bernstein Creates a Cookbook for Caregivers

By Melissa C. Bernstein, OT, FAOTA, Florida, United States

Life has a way of keeping things interesting and providing us with magic moments that set our career path in motion.

When I was a pre-teen, I loved babysitting. It was a fun way of making a few dollars, doing something useful on a Saturday night, and, fortuitously, was a first step in events that shaped my path in life. But a more significant event sealed my path.

When I was a teenager, my mother asked me if I would go over and help my Aunt Betty (my mother’s sister), who was dying of cancer, though I did not know. All I knew was that she was very sick. I helped Aunt Betty with the most basic daily living tasks.  After my first time helping her, as I was walking home, I realized how sad it was that this once very sharp, always well put together, impeccably dressed homemaker could not manage her basic care without my help.  It was heartbreaking to watch. This is when I discovered my empathy, care, and desire to help those in need.  I found my path to make it a career.

After researching various healthcare professions, I chose occupational therapy, which helps people regain or adapt to the “Occupation of Living,” meaning a person’s daily living skills. Through the use of assessment and intervention, occupational therapists assist individuals to develop, recover, or maintain meaningful activities of daily living.

Collaborating with My Doctor Husband

Serendipity occurred when my husband’s, Dr. David Bernstein, and my interests converged as he neared retirement.  We refer to this period of our lives as our “reinspirement.”

Dr.  Bernstein is an award-winning geriatrician and author with 40 years of practice experience. He and I now collaborate on improving the quality of life for aging adults.  His publication I’ve Got Some Good News and Some Bad News: YOU’RE OLD, Tales of a Geriatrician addresses resilience as we age. Another book, The Power of 5: The Ultimate Formula for Longevity and Remaining Youthful promotes healthy aging and longevity. (See Dr. Bernstein’s AlzAuthors post here.) 

A key piece of the puzzle we address are the lives of individuals with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Dr. Bernstein and I present information and motivation for all adults to take actionable steps to reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

During this time, I became a certified vegan chef.  I continue to provide lifestyle and dietary guidance through my cooking and food blogs that conform to Dr. Bernstein’s recommendations for healthy eating to reduce neurodegenerative diseases and chronic inflammation. Equally important is my focus on caregivers and their distinctive partnership and day-to-day interactions with their care recipients.

Melissa Bernstein, The Power of Five Test Kitch Cookbook: Caregiver EditionI developed a program entitled Purposeful Engagement of Meal Preparation for the Caregiver and Care Recipients with Neurodegenerative disorders. This program outlines through demonstration the recommendations and instructional curriculum for the caregiver and care recipient to perform meaningful activities together in the kitchen. The Power of 5 Test Kitchen Cookbook: Caregiver Edition is the published guided cookbook that flourished from my presentation. I am grateful that this publication, written specifically for caregivers, is now part of the AlzAuthors Collection

About the Cookbook

My cookbook is one of a kind because it provides a step-by-step path encouraging the caregiver in tandem with the care recipient to work safely in the kitchen, sharing a purposeful activity.

The cookbook includes:

  • The Basics of Collaboration between caregiver and the care recipient in the kitchen
  • Compassionate Cueing Techniques
  • Types of Assistance Level
  • Healthy Eating Guidelines
  • Samples of Adaptive Equipment to promote independence
  • Abilities Inventory

A starting point for the caregiver and care recipient’s success in the kitchen lies in the Abilities Inventory (Checklist) for a cooperative cooking activity. The checklist provided in the cookbook is easy for the caregiver to perform along with the care recipient to determine a baseline of participatory skills that can be expected when choosing a recipe to prepare along with their food preference for maximum engagement.

Completing the Abilities Inventory enhances the level of participation and engagement, in addition to encouraging the care recipient to choose a recipe to make, leading to a sense of independence, and, once they dig in to the “foods of their labor,” instills a sense of accomplishment for the care partners.

A cooking activity allows for time to reminisce about past meals or recipe preparation with other family members or from childhood. This time may facilitate  questions and invoke conversation about special moments with family and friends, bringing memories back to life.

Incorporating Music Therapy in Cooking

As we all know, music can have a profound impact on our lives and can remain imprinted in our brains, including those with neurodegenerative diseases.

Reminiscing or listening to music during the activity (if not too distracting), especially from the era when the individual was between 18 and 22 years old, may arouse vivid memories and reflections of enjoyable events from their past.  Music might even trigger the desire to dance, so let the dance begin!

Get started!

Inspire someone with Alzheimer disease with a purposeful cooking activity! The collaboration between caregiver and care recipient completing a recipe together can provide a sense of accomplishment and meaning on many levels.

The partnerships between caregivers and care recipients preparing a meal will expand the selection of daily activities.  One never knows what benefits or distant memories from the past can be triggered during a fun meal preparation experience. Let the caregiver edition of Power of 5 Test Kitchen Cookbook be your guide.

Bon Appetit!

Listen to Melissa’s Podcast with her husband David

About Melissa C. Bernstein, OT, FAOTA

Melissa Bernstein, Occupation Therapist, author of Power of 5 Test Kitchen Cookbook, Caregiver EditionMelissa C Bernstein is an occupational therapist and a certified chef devoted to eating healthy and teaching others how to do the same. She is a graduate of Boston University and has over 35 years of clinical and consulting experience. During that time, her focus was educating occupational therapists, and management training in geriatric rehabilitation in long term care, assisted living, home health and outpatient settings.

From 2015-present she has been founder and president/CEO of Dynamic Learning Online, Inc. (DLO), the publisher of her husband,Dr. David Bernstein’s, four books. Melissa is also a publicist and promotes Dr. Bernstein’s work and communicates the benefits of a Power of 5 lifestyle. Melissa and Dr. Bernstein co-authored The Power of 5: A Journal for Health, Longevity and Wellness which provides a guide to integrating The Power of 5 formula into one’s life.

The Power of 5 Test Kitchen sprouted from the “Sweets” “S” concept of the 5 “S’s” from the Power of 5 Formula – Get MORE Sleep, Sweat, Socialization and LESS Stress and Sweets. The Power of 5 Test Kitchen promotes healthy cooking and eating a diet high in protein, whole grains and fruits and vegetables, low in carbohydrates and little or no sugar.

The Power of 5 Test Kitchen Cookbook: Caregiver Edition is the first of its kind cookbook that applies healthy eating, engagement and socialization techniques for caregivers to use when cooking with those with neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases.

Melissa and Dr. Bernstein live in Oldsmar, Florida and can be reached at 813-922-2876 or via email at:

Connect with Melissa

Website – The food blogs and recipes; sign up to receive delicious healthy recipes right to your email



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