The kitchen can best be understood as the heart of the home. It is oftentimes where memories begin and gatherings are fueled. It is utilized many times daily and fulfills some of our most basic needs. But it also poses many hazards—hazards that increase in prevalence with age. Hot surfaces, sharp knives, boiling water, and items just out of reach are accidents in waiting. And seniors, whether through negligence or inability, have a harder time managing them.
The layout of your loved one’s kitchen may not be suitable for their condition—especially if it resembles the one used by your much younger self. If you feel that some risks are present, it is a good idea to perform an assessment that will expose unmet safety issues.
Start by evaluating the location of all utensils, appliances, and cookware. Where are the heaviest items stored? If they are kept in elevated, hard to reach cabinets you should consider moving them down a couple of levels. This is an easy way to prevent falls due to a loss of balance. What about sharp objects? Knives should be kept in a single location with the handles facing outward. As for glass objects, they should be replaced if possible with non-breakable items.
Next, consider labeling switches and commonly used appliances. Light switches and garbage disposals tend to have an identical switch; be sure to distinguish between the two as they perform very different functions. Additionally, you should label instructions and reminders on appliances. Placing a sign above the oven that reminds your loved one to set all stove switches to “Off” when finished cooking helps prevent burns and fires while one on the door of the refrigerator helps maintain awareness of food items that may be expired and no longer safe to eat.
Finally, survey the layout of the kitchen. Make sure lighting is sufficient in all areas of use and consider additional light over ovens, sinks, and cutting surfaces. Then, consider the floors. Are they slippery when wet? If so, it may be a good idea to replace them with a coarser surface though non-slip mats are a good option as well.
When the assessment is complete it is important to note that accounting for the above dangers will not eliminate all risk. If your loved one is living alone there is always potential for an accident. The safest option is an attentive human presence at all hours of the day. This can be an impossibility for some and the reason home care has come into existence.
If you feel your loved one is at risk because of kitchen safety issues, or more importantly, because of extended time alone, call us today. We would be happy to discuss care options with you and recommend solutions.