Complete Kitchen Safety for Seniors

I remember a childhood story that told of beautiful green trees that had juicy, sweet fruit hanging low.   The tree was the epitome of happiness and comfort.  But as the story progressed, the trees turned dark, the leaves fell off and the fruit shriveled up and fell to the ground.  The branches, which used to hold full leaves and housed the singing birds, turned into naked limbs with long, skinny fingers that reached out and pulled the little, unsuspecting children up into the tree, never to be seen again.  Wow, I hated that story!  Yet, this exactly what a person’s kitchen turns into through time.  After many years, maybe decades, what was once a happy gathering place for the family, that held the memories of cooking the family’s favorite meals and treats, laughing and good times, can become the most dangerous and scary room in the house.   For some seniors, the kitchen can turn into a dark room that tries to trip, hurt or make them sick.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are some precautions, once taken, that will return a seniors kitchen back into a bright, safe place where families can continue to make memories.

As seniors age, they have some obvious changes in their physical and mental abilities, as well as some changes that are not so obvious.  They may be unsafe in the kitchen due to slower reaction times, decreased balance, dexterity and abilities.  They may have impaired vision or hearing that affect their abilities, or they may be taking medications that alter their senses.  By being proactive, you can make some changes to your seniors kitchen environment to maximize their safety.

There is so much information out there about how to make a kitchen safe for seniors.  But what I found was little bits and pieces of information here and there.  I could find nothing comprehensive. So I’ve put it together for you here. So here you go; the definitive kitchen safety list for seniors.

Preventing Falls

Remove throw rugs and carpets or tape them down with double-sided tape.  

Make sure step stools are sturdy

Make sure kitchen chairs are sturdy

Non-glare, non-slip flooring

All spills are cleaned up properly and immediately

Avoid using tablecloths

A chair or other seat close by the cooking area to sit and rest

Safe Cooking

Do not wear loose fitting clothing (such as robes, gowns or blouses with wide or billowy sleeves) while cooking or around the flame

Replace glass and ceramic dinnerware and glasses with non-breakable items

Knives should be kept in a good, sharpened condition

Avoid knives with wooden handles, or check regularly for looseness

Turn pot/pan handles inward while cooking or while hot food is on the stove

Use pots/pans with 2 handles

Keep pot holders and oven mitts handy, but do not store near stove

Ensure adequate counter space near stove, oven, refrigerator and sink

Never leave cooking food unattended

Set a timer when cooking

Avoid frying foods

Avoid appliances that start automatically such as coffee makers, rice cookers or slow cookers

Make sure controls for oven and stove are easy to read.  Mark “off” position with white-out if needed

Stove controls are located in the front of the stove, not the rear

If microwave is located above stove, relocate it to countertop

Make sure oven, stove, toaster oven are turned off when finished cooking

Use oven with side-swing door

Use self-cleaning oven

Side-by-side refrigerator (easier to access than top/bottom style)

Preventing Fire

Clean the stove, backsplash and hood regularly

Fire extinguisher nearby and in working condition.  Make sure senior knows how to use

Smoke detector installed in the kitchen. Check batteries monthly.  Replace batteries annually

3 prong plugs are in 3 prong outlets, not 2 prong extension cords

General Safety

Make sure there is sufficient lighting in the kitchen area and that the maximum wattage bulbs are being used on each lighting source

Use under-cabinet lighting

Hanging lights should not hang where head can hit it

Light switch located by each entrance to kitchen and easy to access/reach

Remove any phone or other cords that might be lying across the floor

Attach loose cords or wires to the wall or edge of the floor with tape, not staples or nails

Remove clutter on the floors

Remove clutter on the counter surfaces

All outlets should have appropriate covers

No electric outlet located near the sink

Move appliances located near sink

Check all cords for frayed wires

Store the most used items between eye and hip level

Heavy items are not stored up high

Good medication administration system

Hot water heater set to 120 degrees, or “low” setting

Avoid shiny surfaces in kitchen materials

Avoid sharp corners/edges on counters

Unplug appliances when not in use  

Flashlight available in case of emergency

Food Safety

Check refrigerator for old or expired food

Check pantry for old or expired food

Keep refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees and check regularly

Convenience

Use deep, pull-out shelves for easy access

Use Lazy Susan

Drawer and cabinet pulls that are bar style, not knob style

Use of lever-style faucet, not knobs.   Consider motion or touch activated faucet

Convert stove and oven knobs to over-sized ones

Safety for Seniors who Suffer from Dementia/ Alzheimer’s Disease

Remove step stools

Remove knobs from oven and stove

Medications stored and locked away

Door alarm or child safety lock on door

Knives and other sharp or dangerous utensils stored away safely

Child safety latches on drawers/cabinets

Chemical cleaning supplies, insecticides and other chemical agents should be stored in garage

Disconnect garbage disposal

Monitor items placed in microwave or remove microwave

Get rid of the junk drawer

Remove blenders, mixers, toasters etc.

 

By checking these areas, you can maximize the safety of your senior’s kitchen environment and make their kitchen area like a safe, friendly fruit-filled tree again!

For more information on the whole house safety, get the free Ultimate Home Safety Checklist for Seniors.  

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