People of all ages and abilities can be at risk in the kitchen. While this room of the house conjures up thoughts of families coming together for happy times and good meals, inviting smells of everything from cookies to stews, and starting the day with a hot cup of coffee or tea, it can also be hiding hazards.
It is possible to make a kitchen a safer place, especially for those who may have conditions that affect their mobility, dexterity, eyesight or smell. Here are some things to look out for in the kitchen of your loved one who may need assistance with keeping their home a safe place to enjoy their daily activities, including cooking and eating healthy foods:
- Every day items that are stored in an out-of-reach place.
- Expired food in the refrigerator, pantry or cupboards.
- Trash that is piling up and not being taken out to the curb or dumpster.
- While sharp knives seem inherently dangerous, it is in fact dull cutlery that can lead to cuts as this common kitchen tool slips off of the food when not sharp enough to cut through.
- Burners that are left on after food has been prepared and can lead to fires and burns.
- Chairs, throw rugs or other obstacles that can obstruct the walkway and cause someone to trip or even fall.
Now here are some tips on how to address these problems if you do recognize them in the home of your elder loved one, while also maintaining their dignity:
- Offer to spend an afternoon together reorganizing cupboards to make sure that those every day items are stored in a place that they can easily reach.
- Get labels and a smudge-proof marker to make expiration dates on food easier to read and find.
- Schedule someone—a friend, neighbor, professional caregiver, or yourself if you are nearby—to come over weekly to take out the trash. This can be more than a chore and become a social visit too.
- Simply keeping the stovetop clean can be a factor in preventing fires with this appliance. Get more tips here, such as rolling up long sleeves. Consider investing in a device that automatically shuts the stovetop off.
- Use the back burners as much as possible, with pot handles turned toward the back of the stove.
- Create an easy-to-read checklist of reminders about putting foods away, securely closing the refrigerator, turning off appliances, wiping up spills and more by the most common exit to the kitchen.
- Buy new knives or take theirs for sharpening at a local hardware store or farmers’ market.
- Make sure their fire extinguisher is in working order.
- Check the batteries on the smoke detector in the kitchen.
People can get a great deal of joy from making their favorite meals and need to be able to eat healthy foods, not just already prepared fast foods or sweets, even as their abilities change due to illness and age. Family members and other caregivers can support this independence in a modified safe kitchen as needed.