10 Tips for a Divalicious Easily Accesible Kitchen for Every Parkinson’s Person: By Maria De Leon

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I kiss better than I cook.”~ Suzy Toronto

In my recently published book “Parkinson’s Diva: A woman’s Guide to Parkinson’s Disease,” I outline some strategies to make life easier while working in the kitchen for those of us who have chronic illnesses like PD.

We all experience ‘good days and bad days’ as my patients used to tell me. However, things can get down right tricky if you are the one not feeling well and everyone is looking at you for nourishment. There you are listless, barely able to control your tremors, dystonia, dyskenisias, tears, or whatever else Parkinson’s has in store for you that day. Now, you are supposed to do what? COOK! But, You can’t even bend down to get the right utensils or make it to the kitchen area.

So here are 10 strategies to make your life easier while making your kitchen functional and accessible without losing its charm.

  • First, get rid of breakable dishes. Get plastic or durable-non-breakable dishes

You do not have to sacrifice style for practicality. Make sure that these dishes are both microwavable safe and dish washer safe. I have nearly replaced all my day to day dishware and cooking sets because got tired of flinging things around and spending more time cleaning then cooking!

  • Second, make sure every one has special devices or gadgets to open jars, cans, and bottles as well as easily grip things. Get both that help with grip and also give you leverage to make turning easier. There are many grippers you can purchase cheaply. QVC had some nice practical ones that where also whimsical and came in variety of colors. Mine is polka doted blue! You might even want to mount one on the wall that allows for single hand use- However, have to consider position. Must be at waist level and near the edge of a wall so you can reach easily especially if using a wheelchair, scooter, or walker.Kuhn-Rikon Polka Dot Ultimate Auto-Attach Can Opener - K34857

Kuhn Rikon Polka Dot 5-1 Jar Opener - K38502

  •  Third, think about  de-cluttering your kitchen space. Remove any non essential materials from counter tops as well as removing any furniture that is obstructing easy passage to and from kitchen area as well as around the kitchen to make maneuvering easier especially if using walking assisting devices or wheelchairs. Get rid of carpets which might cause you to trip. If possible get tile floors that have a little bit of shine for easy gliding but do not make them too sleek because I don’t want you falling. Also, make a design in the pathway to kitchen and around your work area that will visually stimulate your gait and avoid freezing. Do stripes, or checkers, or color gradation, and mark door ways with a clear transition by placing strips of different color and/ or material to prevent freezing as you transition from one room to another. I personally love natural wood floors.you can make beautiful designs with these as well. plus they are easier to traffic with walkers and canes. same can be done with other type of stones. You don’t have to break the bank in making these changes to your home and kitchen since there are now use expensive  many less expensive materials to choose from like natural wood imitations that are just as beautiful. these alternatives could prove not just better for our pockets but easier to maintain. By using simple techniques or making small changes  you dont only have a more functional, disease friendly space but also give your living space an air of elegance, sophistication and spaciousness. But, remember to keep your paths goal oriented as the one in the picture below leading to television, bathroom, bedroom ( use in most trafficked areas to avoid falls and other gait impediments).

 

  •  Fourth, once you have removed unwanted and unused objects from around the kitchen floors, cabinets and counter tops your newly decluttered  kitchen area is guaranteed to make your life simpler. However, because all of us who have Parkinson’s disease and other physical disabilities have trouble bending and climbing due to the vertigo, dizziness, unsteadiness, along with stiffness caused by our disease we must be able to easily access our non-breakable cooking dishes, our condiments and other essentials for cooking. Therefore, we need to organize our working space as well as our cabinets so that everything we need is at eye and waist level; thus avoiding getting stuck on the ground or falling of a step stool. (I have all my condiments in a pull out drawer next to my stove). Also consider replacing all or a big portion of your cabinets with pull out shelves with dividers. This way you can see what you have and can store everything easily. I much prefer this to rotating shelves because those tend to get stuck plus are usually very small which reduces your storing capacity but also may make getting things out harder due to our loss of dexterity and fine motor control. On the other hand, the pull out shelves can be customized for what you need. they come in many sizes or shapes prefabricated or a good carpenter can install and customize further to your needs and specifications. I had this type of shelving installed in my office due to my chronic back problems. But, as my PD has progressed I am now implementing in my own home, since i have found myself storing all my cooking pots and pans along with other bowls and utensils in the middle shelves making it harder to get at without dropping and breaking things.
  • Fifth, once you re make your kitchen floors, install right shelving, get appropriate dishes but cooking is still a challenge because you have a hard time standing to cook due to pain, leg cramps, weakness, and off balance issues. In order to bypass some of these issues consider getting a chair to use while cooking, especially if you are like me and have a stove top on an island (which I highly recommend gives you more room to maneuver). This should be something light that is easily moved and folded to be out of the way. The chair or stool should have arm rest and a back to make sitting and getting up easier. This will help to minimize fatigue while cooking as well as avoid falling especially if using canes and walkers because hard to cook while holding on to these..
  • Sixth, I recommend a refrigerator with two doors. This way you can put things at eye level and not have to bend or simply may need to reorganize the shelving there as well.
  • Seven, I find that I now have a hard time washing dishes- the scrubbing is not always as precise as I would like it to be. Therefore, a dishwasher may come in handy but make sure your dishes are safe to place there and that they FIT! ( as I discovered one Thanksgiving Day that my beautiful hand painted dishes would have to be done by hand because too big to fit into dishwasher). The realization took the glee right out of me of having had the pleasure of serving my guests in this fine china!
  •  Eighth, make sure that your sink has an extension hose making it easier to access the water and rinse dishes etc. especially if you have limited mobility and use walker, motorized vehicle and the like.
  •  Ninth, get a nice food processor and/ or blender to expedite things in the kitchen and help you chop, grate, and liquefy foods without causing injury to yourself. they also make boards which have a way of tethering it to the counter top as well as keeping whatever it is your cutting in place to to avoid cutting yourself, spilling things all over the counter and floor due to tremors and dystonia.
  •  Tenth, Don’t sweat the small stuff! Every Diva has to know her limitations. if cooking is NOT your thing or maneuvering around the kitchen proves to be nearly impossible consider alternatives- of course there is ALWAYS take -out! But, this can get tiresome and expensive. You can still prepare a home cooked meal and be the QUEEN of the castle without much work. I highly recommend every woman, person with PD or other chronic illness should own a nice crock pot! Mine of course is red!!!But along with this you must have at least one good cooking recipe book for crock pot. There are many out there. However, I especially love the collection by Debbie Thornton.

Any Blonde Can Cook

Become A Warrior Princess & Conquer PD: By Maria De Leon

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“To find beauty we must carry it with us.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We live in an era where beauty unfortunately has become a treatment. Today, the most beautiful of women feel the need to be processed via chemical peels, botox, facials, depilatory treatments, exercise regimens all in the name of beauty. Even Queen Esther a beautiful woman, the Bible states, was sent for a make- over before she could meet her King!

In an age where we can find pants that claim to help us lose weight and mold our legs and rid of cellulite just by wearing them, to vitamins, herbs, dietary supplements that claim to rejuvenate our skin, mind and body. No wonder some of us may feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the fads and trends. But, at what cost? Should we continue to allow others to pass judgment on whether we meet someone else’s standard of beauty?

it is tough enough being a woman without having to live in another woman’s (person) shadow.

What about inner beauty? Does this not count for something?

I know we all want to be attractive to fit in, to be accepted because unfortunately in society We are often treated as we are perceived. Never is this more apparent that in those of us suffering from chronic Neurodegenerative illnesses like Parkinson’s which gravely affect our outward appearance. Yet, although as a Parkinson’s Diva who believes that dressing well, smiling, and looking good can empower us to fulfill the roles we have been predestined to play- external beauty should NOT ever become our priority.

Fortunately, in Gods realm beauty is neither a treatment nor something we have to spend thousands of dollars trying to achieve.

There are much greater gifts that lie within the beautiful Trojan horse. Don’t be fooled by the exterior. Although, the horse was beautiful it was what lay inside of it that gave it its value and power. Likewise, we as Parkinson’s women find that the real beauty God has granted us comes from within. One’s inner beauty sparkles best when we show compassion, integrity, intelligence, perseverance, patience, love, and kindness towards others. These are the things that make us strong and able to conquer whatever challenges PD throws our way.

“Don’t [ever] let anyone dull your [inner] SPARKLE!”….. S. Toronto

No matter what you lose in life or PD takes away, it can never strip your inner beauty – this is the real army laying dormant inside waiting to charge at a moments notice when the crucial time arises.

Even though beauty can start off as skin deep,it can serve to let us in the gates of the enemy- the walls surrounding PD which many times keep us isolated from others; it also serves to empower us to unlock the true beauty which flows from deep inside our souls and become PD warrior princesses!

BE YOUR OWN KIND OF BEAUTIFUL …After all ” we are fearfully and wonderfully made! ” Psalm 139:14

10 Things Every PD Woman Should Have: By Maria De Leon

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“Something perfect to wear if the man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.”

1) A nice silk night gown or pajamas to help you feel feminine, cool and also make sliding and moving in bed a lot easier when you wear off or get rigid.

2) A nice pair of red flats or any peep toed flats of your favorite color that can be worn at fancy occasions or any season to provide a pop of color which can be dressed up or down. Easy to put on when stiff or dyskinetic. But, make sure soles are slippery if have tendency to freeze to avoid falling. Payge Peep-Toe Flats

3) A little black dress/ black well fitted suit – this will be your to go outfit when going out on the town with the love of your life or when facing congress trying to change the world.

4) A Statement necklace- long of course so won’t have to fiddle with clasps- could be a set of pearls or bold gold necklace -something to make a statement and make you feel feminine. Add a touch of class to any occasion and is season- less.

5) A favorite lipstick -one that you can always go to that will make you feel confident and feminine. One that by itself can give you strength to conquer the world. 

6) A print copy of your favorite book by your night stand. One that will always inspire you to continue the journey even when the days seem gloomy.

7)  A favorite scent that is uniquely yours! When I was in medical school I wore “passion”  all the time. It is funny how a scent can define or identify a person. One day in class when studying the brain, we touched upon the olfactory nerve (one that helps us smell) while the Professor flashed a picture of a bottle of PASSION on the screen, to my amusement and amazement in unison most of the class shouted ” Maria!” Upon seeing the picture up on the overhead.We all had a big laugh. It was there that I discovered the power a fragrance can have even subconsciously. I like one that not only smells good and brings your best attributes but the name itself is empowering – it helps if it is visually beautiful or appealing as well! But, that’ s just me!

8) A Hand sanitizer in your purse- it helps protect you from all the germs around and helps prevent spread of germs as well. I like bath and body brands not only do they have great fragrances but come in stylish bottles for every occasion.

9) A sturdy piece of luggage to pack your medications and essentials at a moments notice should the opportunity arises to get away for a weekend or longer.

10) Most important, every woman should always have an idea of who she wants to be and accomplish along with a plan B just in case this PD throws another curve ball…

@copy right 2015

all rights reserved by Maria De Leon

A day in the Life with PD: by Maria De Leon

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10526144_743459779045084_7301643744003029952_nImperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” – Marilyn Monroe

Ever since I was a young girl, I have always enjoyed modeling and getting all jazzed up. Often putting on run way shows and singing extravaganzas in my grandfather’s backyard for the entire neighborhood. But, as a busy solo neurologist on the go on call 24/7 unless out-of-town, I relished those few and rare moments where I could play dress up.

One thing I discovered over the years while purchasing clothes particularly dresses is making sure that you ALWAYS try them on before purchasing. Because even if it’s your size it may not move with you as you like for the occasion in mind. Be sure to try the dress in various positions. As I learned the hard way. I bought this gorgeous sateen empire waist low-cut teal dress which fit in all the right places …extremely elegant and sexy. Well, the day came when I was ready to wear my priced possession and show it off at a friend’s wedding, I suddenly discovered that this magnificent dress only fit me perfectly as long as I stood upright. However, if I sat down the front of the dress would suddenly become extremely lax and would open wide exposing the girls to the world unless I sat with my back completely arched and head tilted to the side as if posing for a calendar photo shoot….not having brought any other wrap ..this was the way I had to sit throughout the entire wedding ceremony.

Feeling all eyes on me instead of the event at hand, I had to concentrate on maintaining my posture rather than focusing my attention on the beautiful wedding in the most serene, picturesque outdoor scenery surrounded by lakes and huge 100-year-old trees. Needless to say that by the time the ceremony concluded I had such a crick in my back and neck.

So, the other day when I was asked to do a photo shoot for a magazine I was reminded of that day in the woods and I had to laugh.  I was not sure I could sit immobile in a certain position for hours once more now that my Parkinson’s has advanced. But, I thought surely they will only come and take a couple of pictures – no big deal. I figured one or two clicks and done. I never expected an entire production. When the crew arrived and started unloading cameras, lights, suit cases, and other equipment which filled up most of my living room. I knew I was in for a once in a life time experience.

My mother -in- law had fixed my hair but with all the perspiration that comes along with PD compounded by that day’s humidity and nervous anticipation, my hair curled back up to its usual frizzy state in less than 5 minutes. Although, I had carefully prepared my clothes the night before, that day I must have changed 5 times at least. Finally, settling on the right outfit and accessories a minute before the crew arrived. the rushing along with frustration of not being able to move quickly caused me to sweat even more despite having the room in the low 60’s. anyone who would have witnessed the down pour would have assumed I was menopausal especially since I had a patch on (neupro). I guess I will have to move to the north-east when this happens. Despite the perspiration and rushing, I was proud of my choice and felt I had done a good job with selection, apparently I was the only one that felt this way. After my make up was done I was asked to show them my closet so they could pick out my clothes. After several selections the RIGHT outfit was identified! I was ready for a nap and we had not even taken a single picture! No other choice but to up my medications to keep up.

I thought I knew how to apply make up, apparently I have been doing it all wrong! The key to good make up application is to make it look natural and last all day. I was amazed how wonderfully smooth and soft my face felt all day long. Moreover my lipstick did not feel like a cake on my lips yet never once peeled off or smeared on my cup (which I hate!).  I have  decided it takes great deal of skill to be a good makeup artist one which I don’t fully possess.

All throughout the photo session the team of photographers kept asking for makeup touch up and hair  touch-up which tickled me to death. After 3 hours of continuous photo taking in various rooms of the house and many poses, I was ready for a nap.

I felt like I should start my own portfolio for a new modeling career after 4 hour photo shoot session!

As I was drifting to sleep with my thoughts still racing from  exhilaration of the days activities, I thought how ironic had it not been for PD I never would have had such a wonderful, fun-filled day!

I slept like a baby that night. Who knew the secret to a good night’s sleep with PD was having your picture taken?