Decreased Mobility – Adapting your Cooking Techniques and Tools

Decreased Mobility – Adapting your Cooking Techniques and Tools

As we have been highlighting the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet recently, we thought it fitting to have a look at ways to make cooking easier for those facing mobility challenges. Time in the kitchen can still be an enjoyable experience with a few simple tweaks in your approach.

Kitchen Design

  • Consider adding a small table or butchers block on wheels to your kitchen as an additional work surface. This will allow you to move your work surface easily so that you can change positions depending on what is most comfortable for you on any given day.
  • Small changes to your existing kitchen such as replacing hardware with easy-grip handles can really help. Replace existing faucets with hands-free or electronic touch faucet making turning it on and off a breeze.
  • If you are in a position where you’re doing renovations or looking to move to a new home make sure you look for kitchen surfaces that are easily maintained to ensure a short clean-up. Materials such as engineered stone are good to look out for.
  • Look for appliances with handles and doors that are easy to open and knobs that are easy to grip and turn. For your oven, consider one that has easy roll-out shelves.

Cooking Techniques

  • Preplanning can be important to reduce time and hassle during the cooking process. Shopping online and having groceries delivered allows you more time in the kitchen itself. If there are jars or bottles you may struggle to open, ask for assistance to open them and decant them into easy grip and easy open containers, this can be done in advance so it’s not necessary to have someone there during the actual meal preparation. Use plastic, melamine or bamboo containers so that if you lose grip and drop something you do not have to attempt to deal with broken glass.
  • Break up preparation and cooking tasks into manageable portions. If it’s difficult to handle large quantities, save bulk cooking for days when you have someone who can assist you.
  • Rest if necessary. do not push yourself to the point of unnecessary fatigue. Keep a stool nearby so that you can sit if needed.
  • Ask for help organizing your kitchen cupboards. Declutter cupboards and ensure items that you frequently use are placed within easy reach.
  • See cooking as a relaxation exercise. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. The goal should be for your spirits to rise whether or not the cake does too.
  • Although not technically a kitchen technique, there is nothing wrong with keeping a few ready meals or leftovers in the freezer for days when you simply don’t have the energy or the mobility to face cooking. These can also save the day when more experimental dishes do not end up quite as edible as one had hoped.

Kitchen Aids

  • Occupational therapists can be wonderful resources. They can help you determine which adaptive kitchen tools would be of greatest help to you as an individual and the unique challenges you face. They will also be able to direct you to websites or provide catalogues from kitchen supply or medical stores that carry a range of the aids discussed below.
  • A push cart can assist if you have trouble carrying things or to reduce trips so you need only move from one area to another once (the above-mentioned table or butchers block can serve this function as well).
  • Some chopping boards have one or two spikes attached that help you secure the food so that less pressure is required during cutting. They also prevent food from sliding off the edge of the board.
  • Silverware with built-up or easy grip handles can make gripping and moving the implements easier. Alternatively, a budget-friendly option is to put cylindrical foam on the handles of utensils to reduce stress on finger joints.
  • A tray with a beanbag base that can be held on your lap allows you to complete a number of tasks without stretching or bending over.

Tips for friends and family

  • It can be tempting for friends and family to jump in and take over if they see you are struggling. It can be helpful to have an open and frank discussion with those close to you. Tell them you will ask for help if needed but otherwise have cooking under control. This helps you to maintain autonomy despite having reduced mobility.
  • If you cook together with other people, clearly indicate what you feel capable of doing. If you aren’t up to standing at the stove, perhaps sitting and chopping ingredients is a task you can do instead. Sharing tasks can help you to feel empowered and allows all members of the household to feel that they have contributed to the meal.
  • If you harbor feelings of guilt relying on others (although they might feel good that they are able to assist) reach out to community or volunteer organizations. Many offer services such as grocery shopping or lifts to the store.
  • Often coming up with a schedule and method of cooking that works for you and other members of the household takes trial and error. Try to avoid feeling frustrated and give yourself time to find your cooking groove in a new and different way.
Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Writing articles about the patients affected and the science being done to find a cure shows why we need to come together to #CureArthritis!

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