Safety Guide to Improve Cooking Areas for Older Adults
As our parents get older, we start to see new difficulties they face in their day-to-day lives. Simply getting around their home may be something they are starting to struggle with more.
Making sure their home is safe is a crucial step to help your aging loved ones live well in their home. Not only that, but it also provides them an opportunity to live independently for longer.
At Mount Hope Nursing Center, we work closely every day with older people who face various issues that come with advanced age. We have experience providing safe environments free from potential hazards for people facing mobility or memory issues.
We know thousands of Kansans work hard as caregivers of their parents or other aging loved ones. You work hard to keep them happy and healthy in their own home. They may not be ready for full-time nursing home care, but perhaps they require additional assistance.
Kitchen Dangers for the Elderly
According to the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), “cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries.”
There are many things you can do yourself to help your aging parents. We have provided a helpful guide to the Top 7 Tips to Make Safe Bathrooms for the Elderly. We want to give you some important tips to ensure you can have a kitchen working well for an elderly person.
Kitchen Changes for the Elderly: Remove Hazards
- Remove any clutter along the floors to also prevent falls.
- Move any chairs, step stools, or other furniture that could be a tripping hazard.
- Check their fridge, pantry, and cabinets for potential expired food. Those expiration dates are difficult enough to read, but it is even harder for people with impaired sight. Check containers and bread for mold.
- Remove any towels (and hooks for them) that hang close to the stovetop.
Kitchen Safety Measures to Prevent Falls, Burns & Other Dangers
- Consider installing an anti-slip mat or two around the kitchen for extra safety. This will make it easier if they need to step onto something like a stool, chair, or countertop to reach high places within their home!
- Buy them skid-free slippers or socks to help further prevent the likelihood of a fall.
- Use lower countertops when cutting vegetables. This could help prevent injury due to falling knives as well as strained muscles
- Purchase pans and pots with two handles to make it easier for them to lift.
- Move anything they need to access regularly to be within arm’s reach. If any food, container, or device requires a stepstool to access, relocate it to a lower location.
- Check the smoke detector near the kitchen (and others around the house while you’re at it) to ensure the batteries are working
- Install a nightlight in the kitchen to provide them sufficient light until they can reach the kitchen light switch.
- Instruct older persons to always use a timer. A timer will help prevent a person from accidentally forgetting they left something cooking on the stove or in the oven.
You can purchase an oven or other device that has a built-in shut-off timer. Or you can try gadgets that connect to a range or other kitchen device that automatically forces it to shut off. You can read more about stove turn-off devices here.
- Find out if any medications your aging loved one is taking cause drowsiness or mental impairment. You will want to make sure they know not to operate their stove or oven when they may be affected by such medicines.
Improving Kitchen Function for Older People
Some of the problems elderly people face in accomplishing day-to-day tasks involve issues with mobility or hand dexterity. Addressing these issues can make a massive difference in the quality of their lives. Below are some ways that you may be able to help your elderly loved one be able to work better (and therefore safer) in the kitchen with just a few changes.
- Replace light bulbs with brighter versions to help them see things better.
- Consider installing lever faucets. This type of handle makes turning on and off the water much easier with less strength required since many older adults have decreased handgrip power due to age-related muscle loss over time.
- Hang cooking utensils on magnetized strips or place them within arm’s reach of where they will be standing.
- Try to keep pots and pans off any hot surfaces like stovetops so that it doesn’t get too hard for them to bend down and pick up something if they need to do so quickly.
- Consider replacing tools that require a lot of effort and dexterity with electrical devices, such as an automatic can opener or an electric juicer.
Caregiver Tasks Start in the Kitchen
Helping with grocery shopping and food preparation is often one of the first caregiving tasks people take on for elderly parents facing new difficulties normal in the aging process. You can assist them with preparing meals in advance for them.
What is safe for them to eat? You will want to be sure to know about any allergies or food issues or any conflicts with medication. Find out if they need to avoid certain foods or if there are any restrictions as to what time of day they should eat or not eat.
You can also help keep them safe by observing the food in their home. You can undergo a spring cleaning of their pantry to make sure there is not any expired food. Be sure to check labels for any ingredients they can’t have due to allergies or contradictory medication issues.
For example, grapefruit is one fruit that can pose problems with certain medicines. Some medications for lowering cholesterol or high blood pressure and even some cancer drugs do not interact well with ingesting grapefruit.
It may be helpful to have your loved one’s doctor help you assess their needs to better prepare meals beforehand to suit their needs.
On a regular basis, check their refrigerator and cupboards for expired or rotting foods. Check dairy products, bread, and containers in the fridge for mold. It would be good also to do a quick cleaning regularly to help them maintain a safe and functioning kitchen.
At Mount Hope Nursing Center, we make safety our #1 priority for our nursing home residents. We know that difficulties in taking care of oneself on a day-to-day basis are why some people decide to enter a nursing home. It can be a difficult decision but staying safe in your home and taking care of yourself is something that gets more difficult as we age.
We are here to help. Many of our staff members have gone through transitioning a loved one to a nursing home, independent living, or coordinating home health care. Give us a call at (316) 667-2431 or contact us online. are happy to answer any questions you might have.
If your loved one is suffering from greater issues of balance and safety than these tips can adequately address, you may want to consider a new level of care for them.
There are many more care options than nursing homes or other long-term care. Many even allow people facing new issues with aging to remain in their own home. Learn about the many kinds of available elderly care and fill out an assessment checklist to help you determine what specific care your aging parent needs in our Elderly Care Guide.