Adapt, Learn

The Art of Enabling

As an occupational therapy practitioner, I center my client’s plan of care based on their individual needs and personal goals.  When the client does not have any specific goals in mind, I use an occupational profile to gather more information about them and use that information to apply to treatment.  Building rapport with my clients has helped establish trust and a therapeutic relationship to help achieve long-term goals.  OT practitioners have unique skills which provide clients the opportunity to participate in activities they never thought possible.  We are the enablers.

For individuals living with a disability, cooking may be something you have depended on others to do for you.  If you are a loved one or caregiver of an individual with a disability, it is time to enable your loved one to cook for him/herself. Food brings people together. Cooking and meal preparation are meaningful goals that can be achieved and can radically improve your quality of life.  Cooking does not have to be complicated.  In fact, there are numerous simple recipes to follow that can be easily adapted to cook with more independence. Here are some ideas to enable others to get cooking:

Adaptive Equipment

Adaptive equipment is one of the best ways to enable individuals to cook on their own.  They provide easy solutions to specific limitations.  There are various products available as well as DIY options.  Some examples of adaptive equipment include suction-cup cutting boards, rocker knives, and pan stabilizers.   Many ordinary cookware companys have new innovative designs available which can be used by individuals with disabilities as well.  Companies such as OXO and Zyliss (products shown below) have been making cooking a lot more accessible with their revolutionizing products.

Kitchen Modifications

Occupational therapy practitioners who work in one’s home environment have the unique opportunity to make modifications to enhance accessibility.  Environmental modifications are another way to promote independence in the kitchen.  Redesigning your entire kitchen may be a little out of budget. However, there are simple steps you can take to modify your kitchen for accessibility.  Adjusting lighting and decreasing glare for individuals with low vision is an easy modification one can make with little effort and money.  Change light bulbs or install window curtains in your kitchen to adjust lighting.  Organization is key for easier cooking.  Decluttering counter space to enhance your work space and reorganizing your shelves make meal preparation more efficient.

Energy Conservation

Consider the amount of energy required for the task to further enable participation in meal prep.  Occupational therapy practitioners often teach energy conservation techniques to promote independence in an individual’s activities of daily living (ADL).  Techniques for energy conservation in the kitchen may include sitting down while measuring and chopping ingredients.  Another way to conserve energy is to gather all ingredients prior to starting.  This will cut down time searching your pantry for items that you need during the task.  Review my post on 5 Energy Conservation Tips for Meal Prepping for more useful strategies.

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Simplify Recipes

Some individuals fear the kitchen due to their limited cooking skills or disability.  However, following a recipe does not have to be intimidating and you do not need to be a chef too cook a delicious meal.  There are various recipes that have minimal ingredients and very few steps that even the most inexperienced cook can follow.  It only takes a few ingredients and steps to create Healthy and nutritious meals.  Using a slow-cooker is one of the easiest methods to cook an entire meal and also provide leftovers throughout the week.  Another option to simplify recipes is to use pre-portioned produce. Grocery stores such as Wegmans and ShopRite take the hard work out of meal preparation with pre-cut fruit and vegetables.

Stay tuned for my ultimate guide to adaptive equipment, energy conservation and environmental modifications coming soon!

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