- Seniors and Kitchen Safety
- Have Someone Conduct a Home Safety Assessment
- Hire a Contractor to Inspect Wiring, Plumbing, Smoke Detectors, and Gas Flow
- Routinely Clean the Kitchen
- Bath Water Temperature Safety for the Elderly
- Have a Labeling System for Perishable Food Items
- Restrict Heating Source Usage When Necessary
- Light a Kitchen for Aging Eyes
- Replace Glass Items With Heat Resistant Plastic
- Move All Kitchenware Items to Reachable Areas
- Monitor Sharp Utensil Use
- Provide Your Loved One With a Chair or Stool
- Create a Safe Flooring Options for Aging Adults
- Discourage Using Over Door and Dishwasher Handles for Balance Support
- Replace Kitchen Tools With Adaptable Equipment
- Regularly Inspect All Oven and Stove Top Timers
In 2019, roughly 50% of private residential fires in the United States were caused by cooking. Seniors 65 and older are 2.5 times more likely to die in a household fire as compared to the whole U.S. population.
Cooking-related fires can ignite for a multitude of reasons:
falling asleep while food is in the oven
getting distracted and walking away from cooking food
improper or unsafe use of cooking appliances
faulty wiring, built-up grease or clutter around heat sources, etc.
Fires are not the only safety hazards seniors and their family members should acknowledge in the kitchen. Due to the natural aging process, seniors are also at higher risk for burns, scalds, food poisoning, falls, electrocution, and bodily injuries from poor body mechanics (excessive bending, twisting, lifting, etc.).
Although the kitchen can present some very real dangers, family members shouldn’t necessarily cut seniors off from using the kitchen especially if they have the cognitive capacity and desire to prepare and cook meals for themselves.
Seniors, family members, and caregivers may be asking themselves these questions:
- How can I make the kitchen a safer place for my loved one?
- Should I call in the professionals?
- What if my loved one is physically or cognitively limited?
- Can they still use the kitchen safely?
For your convenience, we have compiled a list of 10 tips that seniors and their family members can utilize at home to make the kitchen a safer place for seniors living on their own.
Have Someone Conduct a Home Safety Assessment
For seniors and family members who are new to kitchen safety, it might be beneficial to have a trained eye come in and inspect the home. Home safety assessments are often carried out by licensed occupational therapists who can identify safety hazards, but also make adaptive suggestions (equipment, home modification, etc.) to make the kitchen a safer place.
Hire a Contractor to Inspect Wiring, Plumbing, Smoke Detectors, and Gas Flow
If it’s been a while since the senior’s home has been inspected, hire a professional to come in and check for possible faulty wiring, dysfunctional plug outlets, poor gas flow (for gas stoves), and plumbing running to the sink and dishwasher. Having a professional inspection may prevent potential household fires, gas-related asphyxiation, and electrocution.
Routinely Clean the Kitchen
When we say “clean”, we mean deep cleaning the kitchen area including places you haven’t sanitized in years. Regularly inspect and clean ventilation systems, filters, under and behind the fridge/oven, etc. Remove all clutter, especially flammable objects near heat sources like loose paper, paper towels, tissues, and dishcloths. Scrub out excessive grease in and around the oven, stovetop, and microwave to prevent grease-ignited fires.
Bath Water Temperature Safety for the Elderly
If your senior loved one has vision trouble, sensory limitations, or poor memory, research ways to regulate their water temperature to prevent scalding. Consult with a professional about installing anti-scald valves to prevent water temperature from getting too hot.
Have a Labeling System for Perishable Food Items
To prevent food poisoning or other food-related illness, provide your senior loved one with a labeling system to mark and date perishable food items the day of purchase. This can be done using stickers or food-safe markers. Encourage the use of large labels and handwriting for seniors with limited vision.
Restrict Heating Source Usage When Necessary
If your senior loved one is living with some level of cognitive impairment, it is alright to limit their independent access to the microwave, stovetop, oven, and any other electrical or gas-operated kitchen appliance. This may involve temporarily unplugging heat sources until a family member can come over and supervise their food preparations.
If your loved one is cognitively limited and is finding ways to successfully plug these items back in, trip the fuse(s) to the kitchen until a family member is present in their home to assist them with kitchen activities.
Light a Kitchen for Aging Eyes
To prevent burning, falling, ingredient misuse, and dropping/breaking kitchen items, make sure the kitchen is laced with a good lighting system. This could include plugging in extra nightlights or adding lamps that can be safely placed on counter spaces without cluttering the cooking area.
Replace Glass Items With Heat Resistant Plastic
If your loved one has trouble with holding or handling kitchen items (bowls, casserole dishes, drinking glasses), consider replacing glass items with plastic to prevent glass-related injuries. Research heat resistant plastic kitchen equipment that can be safely microwaved if needed.
Move All Kitchenware Items to Reachable Areas
Some falls and medical episodes in the kitchen are caused by excessive overhead reaching and lifting, such as grabbing plates and dinnerware from overhead cupboards. If your senior loved one has cardiac or lifting restrictions, consider moving these objects to a more reachable destination.
Monitor Sharp Utensil Use
Watching a senior use kitchen knives can be terrifying if they have cognitive issues, limited vision, poor grip, or reduced sensation in the hands. Family members who have some concerns about their loved one using sharp utensils should carefully monitor and supervise their usage.
If there are potential problems, investigate adaptable kitchen knives (for physical impairments) or restrict sharp utensil use altogether (for cognitive impairments).
Provide Your Loved One With a Chair or Stool
Keep a chair or stool handy in the kitchen to minimize lengthy standing. Seniors who have reduced stamina are at higher risk for falling. If seniors insist on performing their own cooking and dishwashing tasks to completion, encourage regular sitting breaks.
Create a Safe Flooring Options for Aging Adults
Remove all throw rugs and keep the floor clean and clear of food and liquid spills. Consider installing non-slip mats or having your loved one wear non-slip footwear while in the kitchen.
Discourage Using Over Door and Dishwasher Handles for Balance Support
Caution your senior loved one against using oven doors, refrigerator, and dishwasher handles like grab bars to support their overall balance. Help them use the stationery kitchen counters or ambulation devices (walkers, canes) to steady their balance while cooking.
Replace Kitchen Tools With Adaptable Equipment
For arthritic hands, visual impairments, reduced sensation, and other physical impairments, replace traditional kitchen tools with adaptive equipment. This includes any item that makes gripping, cutting, stirring, scooping, and lifting easier.
Regularly Inspect All Oven and Stove Top Timers
Inspect heating source timers for accuracy and volume. If you are concerned that your loved one can’t hear or has trouble paying attention to the oven or stovetop timer, consider purchasing handheld timers or using alarm systems on their phone to alert them when food is done cooking.
Although there are multiple ways to prevent kitchen-related accidents, it’s important for each family to have an emergency plan for if something still goes wrong. Make sure your senior loved one has easy access to emergency services and can contact you on a moment’s notice. Consult with home safety professionals and primary physicians for any living environment and medical changes that may change your kitchen safety plans. Family members can help senior loved ones enjoy participating in meal preparation and cooking tasks safely and for years to come.