Many therapists suggest reorganizing the kitchen to place the most commonly used items – such as plates, cups, certain pots, etc. – on the counter at height that is easily within reach (this also applies to the refrigerator, where frequently consumed items should be kept on the middle or top shelves). Another common expression is to use wheels whenever possible to assist with moving items from one room to another.
Planning is key! Gather all the ingredients and utensils you might need before you start cooking. This will save energy and reduce the number of trips back and forth across the kitchen.
Care must be taken when cutting during meal prep. Sharp knives can be hazardous, due to tremor that many people with Parkinson’s experience.
- Adaptive cutting boards have built-up sides and pins in them to help keep items in place when cutting.
- Weighted knives can decrease tremor and allow for more normal usage.
- Electric knives are also available and may aid in cutting.
In general utensils with built-up handles are easier to grasp for meal preparation and dining. A simple way to build up handles is to use pipe insulation in tube form. You can find this in a hardware store. Another good kitchen tool is a pot stand. These have suction cups on the bottom to stick to the counter and are helpful for pouring and mixing.
Cooking Appliances and Environment
As long as you have space, all major appliances can be moved and put in a place that is easier to reach, and raised or lowered to be at the appropriate height. Microwaves now have the ability to be in a drawer and built into cabinets. Work surfaces can be in a cabinet and brought out as needed if the commonly used items take up too much space on counters.
Many stores sell dishwashing brushes that have soap already in them. You can also use a wash mitt. When using a dishwasher, newer products have higher shelves and/or multiple racks, so you do not have to bend all the way down to the lower rack.
There are many options for adaptive utensils, including those with built-up handles, weights, and swivels. As mentioned above, foam pipe insulation can be cut and applied to any utensil. You might want to keep a separate set that you bring to restaurants, to make dining out easier. Swivel utensils (usually spoons) help avoid spills when you scoop up your food. A newer technology is the Liftware device which has a stabilizing handle to counteract tremor, steadying the hand. It is available with spoon and fork attachments. While it is a more expensive option, it can make it easier to scoop up food and bring it to the mouth.
The National Parkinson Foundation is part of the Liftware donation program for people who cannot otherwise afford the device. If you think you could benefit from the device, call the National Parkinson Foundation toll-free Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) and talk to one of our PD Information Specialists about whether the device is right for you.
Dycem is a non-slip material you can cut to size and put under a plate or bowl to keep it from moving on the table. A plate guard can help if you have trouble getting food onto your spoon or fork; it is a 1” acrylic or metal border that fits on most plates. You push the food up against the guard, and it falls onto the utensil.
Content provided by Nation “Ben” Herz, OTD, MBA, OTR/L, CEAS, Program Director, Online Doctor of Occupational Therapy, South University.