Kitchen modifications for people living with MS

Consider simple kitchen modifications that may help when living with MS


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Hi, I’m Tamar Kalina. I’m an occupational therapist specializing in multiple sclerosis, and today I’ll be discussing some ways of making your kitchen more efficient for use. Some of the tips I’ll be discussing are quick-and-easy, do-it-yourself tips at home. Others are more useful if you’re looking to remodel or buy a new home.

Here are several simple modifications you can make around the kitchen, starting with a standard oven and stove. You could mount a mirror to the wall at a 45-degree angle, which could reflect the contents of the food inside the pots on the stovetop, and you’ll be able to see the contents from a seated position.

Turning handles could be difficult if you have limited dexterity or range of motion. Universal turning handles could assist with turning the knobs by eliminating wrist rotation. This requires gross grasp, and it’s easier if you have lower fine motor or less fine motor coordination.

There are things called bump dots that are available for purchase. These could be very helpful for anyone with visual impairments. They provide tactile and visual cues for pushing buttons on stoves and microwaves. For example, these buttons over here, you could put a bump dot on them. You can also put them on dials to serve as markers, so the temperature settings are noted. You could put bump dots around the knobs, so you know how hard or how much to turn the knob.

Standard countertop heights in a kitchen are about 36 inches—too high for a person to reach from a seated position. However, the height of the countertop can actually be lowered. Another change that could be made is that drawers underneath the sink could be taken out or removed, allowing someone in a wheelchair to roll underneath the sink, and wash dishes from a seated position, with the countertop lowered somewhat. However, if that’s going to be done, it’s important to cover or insulate the pipes to prevent leg burns. Another thing that could be done is lever handles for the faucets, which are easier to use. A faucet like this is actually a good handle to use, as opposed to knobs that are harder to twist and turn. Someone who has difficulty rotating would have trouble with a knob faucet. There are actually touch faucets available, which you tap on the spout or handle to activate. So you could touch over here to activate the water, and it eliminates grasping. There are also touch-free faucets that work by detecting motion. You see many of these in public restrooms, where you just wave your hand underneath and the water starts flowing.

So here you have a standard fridge. It’s easier for someone with a disability to have a side-by-side fridge and freezer because frozen foods could be difficult to reach if the freezer’s stacked on top of the refrigerator, or even below. Labeling food contents with bold letters and contrasting backgrounds can help anyone with a visual impairment. Switching foods to containers with large-size lids may help with container management. Cabinets with sliding drawers can be easier for accessing and reaching items. Here’s one example of a sliding drawer, and there are several different fridge options that have more. There are also dozens of devices that can help with food preparation and eating for anyone with decreased strength, dexterity, coordination, movement, or many other problems that people could experience when it comes to food preparation or eating.

As you can see, there are different changes you could make to your kitchen to make it more efficient—from an over-the-stove mirror, bump dots, different faucets for accessibility, adjusting countertop heights, improving fridge and freezer accessibility, and so forth. I hope some of these tips help you.


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