What are the safety tips in the kitchen your parents should be following if they’re living on their own?
The kitchen is one of the most dangerous places in the home.
From sharp objects, fire, and invisible threats like carbon monoxide, it just makes sense to be concerned for our parent’s safety.
Statistics also show that people between 65 and 74 years old are nearly twice as likely to die in a fire.
That’s why we need to pay attention to our elder’s home environment, especially in the kitchen.
So today, I’m sharing 5 safety tips in the kitchen for seniors who are aging in place.
Age Safe America states that 90% of older Americans prefer to age in place instead of assisted living.
However, only 85% of these are confident that they can stay in their own homes without the need for modification.
Traditional kitchens present more risks for elders aging in place. These can include fire, and slip and fall risks. Falls are the leading cause of injury among people 65 years and older.
Heating equipment is among the leading cause of fire death in seniors. Cooking closely follows.
About 42% of hand injuries seen in ER are lacerations from kitchen tools.
Fatalities from unattended cooking equipment are up by 45%. Each year, 34 fatal burn injuries occur.
Seniors with dementia and memory loss often forget to turn off appliances. And more often than not, fire extinguishers are not accessible or in good working condition.
These are just a few scenarios that we see in seniors aging in place. And as caregivers, we must always take note of these risks and check on them to keep our seniors safe.
Many seniors love using their kitchens. As caregivers, it should be our priority to make sure they’re safe as they prepare their meals.
Here are five of the most important safety tips to follow to ensure that your elders can continue to use their kitchens safely.
Most fires in senior homes start from unattended food in the stove or kitchen. And it can be more difficult if you’re seniors are dealing with memory loss.
That’s why it’s important to do regular fire hazard checks in your elder’s kitchen.
Make sure the smoke detectors are working properly. Test and dust each smoke alarm every month. And change its batteries at least once a year.
It also makes sense to put fire extinguishers where it’s accessible. Go for small, lighter ones so that your aging parents wouldn’t have issues using them.
Guides and images can also be helpful for parents with memory issues. They must know how to use it. It also helps to put simple visible instructions and practice what to do in the case of a fire so they are less likely to panic.
Avoid wearing loose or flowing clothing that can easily catch fire over an open flame.
Remind your parents not to cook in robes, dresses, or garments with loose sleeves that could ignite.
It might seem unnecessary for us, but simple reminders like these can save lives.
Check out these fire hazard checks here.
Aging eyes are among the challenges of growing older. It helps to bring in small but functional lighting into the kitchen.
Of course, natural lighting is still best. If possible, maximize the amount of sunlight that comes into the kitchen.
But if it’s not possible, opt for matte or frosted lighting to minimize glare and light flares in the kitchen.
It also helps to install task lighting to help with simple tasks like food preparation and cutting. Install lights in and under cabinets to help improve lighting on the counter tops.
Food safety is a priority for seniors living alone who are more prone to foodborne illnesses.
Their bodies no longer fight bacteria like they used to. Also the digestive tract also slows down with age, causing the stomach and intestines to hold food much longer.
The decrease in stomach acid secretion lessens their defense against bacteria. Their liver and kidneys are also less effective at getting rid of toxins.
And their sense of smell and taste may be affected by all the medications they’re taking.
Because of this, they may not be able to detect spoilage as well as they used to.
So how do you prevent food poisoning in seniors aging in place? Here are some practical reminders.
Sanitation is still the key to healthy and safe food. Make sure to put reminders for washing hands and utensils using warm, soapy water.
Keep a spray bottle with disinfectant handy for easy surface cleaning. A simple and natural combo would be distilled white vinegar, water and some essential oils.
You can try this DIY disinfectant spray recipe here.
For natural produce like fruits and vegetables, it’s best to clean them naturally with hot water.
This will help remove pesticides, dirt, and other insects that might be in the crevices.
Make sure your produce and perishables are stored properly. Refrigerate meats and other food at least within an hour.
Put up reminders to defrost frozen food properly. And if you’re in doubt, discard it instead.
Also, consider avoiding raw and undercooked food like eggs and other food that might contain them.
Anything unpasteurized like milk and certain types of soft cheeses should also be lessened.
It also pays to lessen consuming uncooked food like pates and deli meats.
Learn more about food safety for seniors here.
Kitchen floors, water, oil, and other liquids can be a recipe for disaster. That’s why you’ll need anti-slip floorings to keep your elders safe while in the kitchen.
Anti-slip mats and rubber mats can give you grip and stability to prevent falls.
Rugs with non-slip backing can also help in making the floor safer. It keeps the rugs from scooting along and tripping them.
It also helps to install anti-fatigue mats for additional comfort. These mats offer extra cushioning to reduce the weight and pressure placed on their joints.
There are also fall mats that are designed to provide some cushioning in case of a fall.
Check out this resource for fall mats here.
Look for adaptive tools and safe cooking appliances for your elderly loved ones. It also helps to consider any conditions they might have in choosing products.
Seniors with conditions like arthritis and Parkinson’s disease will appreciate ergonomic tools that help with grip and dexterity.
Here are some devices you can get:
Here are some devices for the visually challenged:
There are also gadgets designed to automatically turn off for those who have memory issues.
Most electric kettles have automatic switch-off features that might be useful. There are also automatic stove shut-off devices you can use. These turn off when no movement is detected in a certain amount of time.
It’s also better to use induction stoves and cooktops as a safer option.
Here are some more tips for creating a safer kitchen for elders with memory issues.
As caregivers to our aging parents, keeping them safe should be our priority.
To do so, we need to make adjustments in the kitchen to avoid accidents.
For starters, we need to make sure that aging in place residences have enough space and clearances.
Sharp countertops can cause more injuries so it’s best to install rounded corners and edges.
Try and limit the number of appliances on counter top to keep it clear.
Replacing hard to access lower cabinets with pull out drawers is a great way to reduce the strain of getting out pots and pans and other cooking equipment.
Make sure you’re placing your oven, sink, and refrigerator as close as possible. This makes the “work triangle’ much easier to navigate for them.
If you could, add hands-free faucets with pullout sprayers for easier access.
Automate lights and install automatic gadgets and tools as mentioned above.
Read more about home safety tips here.
Our parents still need the freedom to move and live on their own as empty nesters.
And as caregivers, we should know about safety tips in the kitchen. It’s also our responsibility to check and take precautions for our elderly.
These safety tips can be a life-saver, and give us the standards we need for necessary renovations in aging-in-place residences.
And if you need help in designing and assessing your elder’s kitchen, you can reach out to me through email at [email protected].
That's all for today.
Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!