The kitchen is often considered the heart of the home because it is the center for so many important activities. Families prepare and share meals together in their kitchens and the kitchen also becomes an area for socialization, especially when visiting with friends and family. Many seniors have spent years moving about their kitchens and preparing meals for their families but as they age, their kitchens may become a more dangerous environment.
When your loved ones age, it is important to make adjustments within their homes to ensure their safety. This is especially true with kitchens as ovens, stovetops, and sharp utensils each present a serious hazard. If you have an elderly loved one who still loves to cook, work with them to help make their kitchen a safer place. Preparing meals for loved ones is an activity that can bring much joy to your elderly relatives and making some adjustments in their kitchen will ensure that they can continue to prepare meals safely.
In this guide, we will discuss kitchen safety for seniors and how you can make your elderly loved one’s kitchen a safe place for them to cook. You and your loved one’s home care provider can help implement many of these kitchen safety tips.
Main Kitchen Hazards
In order to make your elderly loved one’s kitchen a safer place, you must understand the biggest hazards within the kitchen. The biggest threats to the health and well-being of seniors in the kitchen are fires and falls. The risk for both increases as seniors experience a decline in physical and cognitive abilities. It is possible to reduce the risk of fires and falls in the kitchen as the abilities of your aging loved ones decline. However, if you believe that your loved ones do not have the cognitive or physical abilities to continue cooking in the kitchen, it may be best to talk to them about giving it up.
According to FEMA, adults over the age of 65 are 2.5 times more likely to die in a fire than the rest of the population and those over the age of 85 are 3.4 times more likely. There are also around 3 million seniors hospitalized each year for falls and these falls are the most common cause of hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries. The risk for both of these threats is even higher in the kitchen, making kitchen safety an important priority for your elderly loved ones who still like to cook.
Organize and Declutter the Kitchen
The kitchen is one of the areas of a home where a level of clutter can build as people get new utensils and appliances over the years. Decluttering and reorganizing the kitchen is a great place to start to make the kitchen safer for your love one. This will make it easier for those with physical limitations to reach what they need and avoid dropping things that they will have to bend over to pick up.
Taking away unnecessary clutter in the kitchen is an easy step that can reduce the risk of falls and other injuries. When decluttering your loved one’s kitchen, remove anything from the countertops and kitchen table that does not need to be there. This will give them more room for food preparation and reduce the risk of dropping things. Seniors are at risk for falls when they have to reach down and pick something up off the floor.
When reorganizing your loved one’s home, the key is to make sure everything they use most often is easily within reach. Using stools and step ladders will only increase their risk of falling. Try to keep things at countertop level so they do not have to use a step ladder or bend down to get a pot or utensil.
The following are some tips to keep in mind when rearranging the kitchen:
- Put only items that are used every day on the countertop. The countertops should be as free as possible to make room for food preparation.
- Consider removing cabinet doors if it makes it easier to reach certain things.
- Put coffee makers, toasters, and other countertop appliances somewhere out of the way on the counter.
- Make sure knives and other sharp utensils are stored safely.
Senior Friendly Cabinets
Reaching and getting things from cabinets both below and above countertop level can be difficult for seniors. There are senior friendly cabinet options you can consider for your loved one’s kitchen that can be installed into their current cabinet boxes. The following are the most helpful cabinet products:
- Pull out shelves make it easier to reach things in the back of the cabinet.
- Pull down shelves make it easier to access overhead cabinets.
- Lazy susan trays can increase access within corner cabinets.
- Sliding basket organizers in cabinets and pantries make food and other objects more easily accessible.
Fall Prevention Tips
While decluttering and rearranging the kitchen can help prevent falls by making it easier for your loved ones to get what they need, there is still more that can be done to reduce this risk. The following tips will help prevent falls in the kitchen:
- Kitchens commonly have tile or wood floors that can increase the risk of slipping, especially when wet. Consider installing slip resistant floors in your loved one’s kitchen or at least make sure they wear shoes or non-slip slippers when in the kitchen.
- Put a mat or rug in front of the sink to soak up water so it doesn’t present a slip hazard.
- Improve the lighting within the kitchen by putting push lights or motion-sensitive lights on lower cabinets and above the counter top.
- Get unbreakable dinnerware to prevent injuries from cleaning up broken glass.
As mentioned above, fires are the biggest risk to seniors in the kitchen. The following tips will help you reduce the risk of fires in your loved one’s kitchen:
- Make sure your loved ones understand that they should never leave food cooking unattended. This includes food on the stove top, oven, toaster, or microwave.
- Your loved ones should also never leave a coffee maker brewing unattended.
- Consider shut-off devices that can automatically shut off toasters, coffee makers, and other kitchen appliances.
- Do not hang dish towels or potholders anywhere near the oven or burners and make sure window curtains are far enough away from the stove.
- Plastic utensils should be stored away from the stove to prevent them from melting or catching fire.
- Make sure your loved ones know to wear tight fitting clothing when cooking and to roll up long sleeves. Loose fitting clothing can brush up against a burner.
- Put a smoke detector in your loved one’s kitchen and make sure it always has working batteries. An easy to use fire extinguisher should also be in their kitchen within easy reach.
- Clean the ventilation system in the kitchen regularly to remove built up grease and fats that can ignite.
- Make sure your loved ones clean the stovetop after cooking to prevent buildups of fat and grease.
- Have the wiring and outlets checked by an electrician.
Keep your Loved Ones Safe with Home Caregivers
Talking to your elderly loved ones about kitchen safety and taking these actions to make their kitchen safer will allow them to continue to prepare meals for their loved ones as they age. As your loved one’s physical and cognitive abilities continue to decline, you may have to make further adjustments to ensure their safety in the kitchen. If you can, keep an eye on your loved ones and talk to them regularly to check if they are encountering new limitations when they use the kitchen.
Another way to ensure your loved one’s safety in the kitchen is to have a professional home caregiver help them around the house. At Assisting Hands Home Care, we offer home care services to help seniors with their personal care activities, as well as other household activities such as meal preparation. Our caregivers can help your loved ones in the kitchen as much or as little as needed and ensure that they remain safe when preparing meals.