“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 cant even bend down to get the right utensils.
- 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.
- Third, think about de-cluttering your kitchen space. Remove any furniture that is obstructing easy passage. 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 not 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 strips of different color and/ or material to prevent freezing as you transition from one room to another. I love natural wood floors and the same can be accomplished with this material. you don’t have to use expensive materials there are so many wood imitations that are just as beautiful and easier to care for and much better on our pockets as well. when you use these methods you are giving 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. same should be for your kitchen, bathroom and other frequented areas.
- Fourth, once you have de-cluttered your cabinets as well as your kitchen area life will be much simpler. However, we are not done. If you are like me you have trouble bending and climbing due to the vertigo, dizziness, unsteadiness, and stiffness caused by the Parkinson’s. So, we have to be able to easily access our non-breakable cooking dishes, our condiments and other essentials for cooking. Organize so that everything you need is at eye level 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 are small and constricted while the pull out shelves can be customized for what you need any size or shape. I had this in my office and I absolutely loved,. I am now implementing in my home.
- Fifth, okay so you made to the kitchen and got everything out easily but cooking still a challenge because have a hard time standing to cook due to pain, leg cramps, off balance. In order to bypass some of these issues consider getting a chair especially if you are like me and have a stove top on an island (which I highly recommend gives you more room to maneuver). The chair or stool should have arm rest and a back to make sitting and getting up easier. this will aid or decrease fatigue while cooking.
- Sixth, I recommend a refrigerator with two doors. this way you can put things at eye level and not have to bend.
- 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! not as I discovered one thanksgiving day that my pile of dishes would have to be done by hand. The realization took the glee right out of me, as I tried to put my new fancy dishes in the dishwasher. Turns out they were too BIG for any machine!
- Eighth, make sure that your sink has an extension hose making it easier to access the water and rinse dishes etc. especially if have limited mobility or are on a walker or motorized vehicle.
- 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. Careful to purchase one that is easy to use and carry best if attractive to leave on the counter so don’t have to worry about storing.
- Tenth, Don’t sweat the small stuff! Every Diva has to know her limitations. if cooking is just not going to be possible 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 ids red!!!But along with this you must have at least one good cooking recipe book for crock pot. there are many out there but I especially love the collection by Debbie Thornton.