Simple changes and adaptations can make meals easier to prepare, eat and clean up. Occupational therapists suggest reorganizing the kitchen to place the most commonly used items — such as plates, cups and certain pots — on the counter at a height that is within easy reach; this also applies to the refrigerator, where frequently consumed items should be kept on the middle or top shelves.
Planning is key to success in the kitchen. Gather all the ingredients and utensils you might need before you start cooking. This will save energy and reduce the number of trips across the kitchen.
Care must be taken when cutting during meal prep. Sharp knives can be hazardous, due to Involuntary shaking of the hands, arms, legs, jaw or tongue. The typical Parkinson’s tremor is “pill-rolling” – it looks like holding a pill between thumb and forefinger and continuously rolling it around. Some people report an internal tremor, a shaking sensation inside the chest, abdomen or limbs that cannot be seen. Most Parkinson’s tremor is “resting tremor,” which lessens during sleep and when the body part is actively in use. that many people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) experience.
- Adaptive cutting boards have built-up sides and non-slip backing to help keep items in place when cutting.
- Weighted knives can decrease tremor and allow for easier usage.
- Electric knives are also available and may aid in cutting.
Build up utensil handles to make them easier to grasp for meal preparation and dining. Use pipe insulation in tube form, found in hardware stores, to easily build up handles. 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
Position kitchen appliances and equipment in easy-to-reach places, raising or lowering equipment to a comfortable height. Newer microwaves can be built into cabinets. Free up counter space by storing commonly used work surfaces in a cabinet until needed.
Many stores sell dishwashing brushes that already have soap in them. You can also use a wash mitt. Newer dishwashers have higher shelves or multiple racks, so you do not have to bend all the way down to the lower rack.
Stable dining surfaces and easily handled utensils can simplify mealtimes.
The nonslip material Dycem can be cut to size and put under a plate or bowl to keep it from moving on the table. Using a plate guard — a 1-inch acrylic or metal border that fits on most plates — can make it easier to get food onto your spoon or fork. You push the food up against the guard, and it falls onto the utensil.
There are many options for adaptive utensils including those with built-up handles, weights and swivels. As mentioned earlier, foam pipe insulation can be cut and applied to any utensil. Swivel utensils (usually spoons) help avoid spills when scooping up your food. Keeping a separate adaptive utensil set to bring to restaurants can make dining out easier.
Liftware is a newer utensil technology with a stabilizing handle to counteract PD-related tremor, steadying the hand. It is available with spoon and fork attachments. While it is a more expensive choice, it can make it easier to scoop up food and bring it to the mouth.
The Parkinson’s 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 Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) to talk to one of our PD Information Specialists about whether the device is right for you.