As seniors age, their abilities to live independently may falter. For some, moving in with family or into an assisted living place is key to keeping them safe, healthy and happy. However, moving may signify a loss of independence that many seniors are not ready to give up. For family members, watching their elderly relatives live alone may be worrisome, especially if the relative is older and has shown a loss of cognitive function. Living alone can be very dangerous for an elderly person. Various parts of the house can cause them to harm themselves or others. One major part of a home that is dangerous is the kitchen. Fires, burns, and other injuries can all occur while cooking a simple meal. If your elderly relatives live alone and want to continue doing so, then consider going through their home with them and adding a few safety features, especially in their kitchens.
Kitchens can be dangerous for people of all ages. They are equipped with knives, open flames, heat sources, and blades. Food processors and blenders can accidentally be turned on and cuts can occur. People who are especially forgetful could leave their stoves on and cause fires, which could be devastating. For seniors living alone, the constant threat of danger lurks in their kitchens. If your elderly relatives live alone and you are worried about their kitchen safety then go over these tips with them.
- Always double check if an appliance is turned off after you are finished using it. Appliances such as coffeemakers and slow cookers can overheat and start a fire if left on for extended periods of time.
- If your elderly relative has issues seeing the small on/off buttons on appliances, then put brightly colored tape on both switches. Tell them what each color indicates so they can easily shut off their appliances after use.
- Buy a kitchen timer for whenever you cook. Set the timer for 30 minutes to 1 hour whenever you begin cooking. Whenever the timer goes off, double check all of your appliances and cooktops to ensure they are turned off.
- Avoid any loose clothing while you are cooking. Long sleeves and loose jackets can get caught in your stove and catch fire.
- Never place loose papers, bags, potholders or towels near an open flame or a stove. The materials can catch fire.
- Always keep a fire extinguisher available in your house. Be aware of the instructions and how to use the fire extinguisher in case of emergency.
- Keep key items in your cupboards at eyesight or on lower shelves. Reaching for items on upper shelves can be dangerous and can make you lose your balance and fall. Buy a reaching tool for items that are on the top shelves, and ensure that you understand how to use it efficiently.
- Place non-stick rugs in your kitchen to prevent them from sliding and you losing your balance.
If your elderly relative loves to cook, but is finding it difficult to do so, then you can also help modify their kitchen for safety and efficiency. Larger knobs for stoves and ovens can be bought at hardware stores and easily installed. You can also buy your elderly relatives large print recipe books or rewrite their favorite recipes in larger print. Many home improvement and hardware stores have full sections on safety modifications for elderly homes.
Preventing fire and injury is key to keeping your elderly relative safe in the kitchen. By not wearing lose clothing and by always staying in the kitchen while cooking your relative can easily prevent fires. Another key safety tip for the elderly in their kitchens deals with food safety. Many seniors keep expired food in their cupboards for years without knowing it. Whenever you visit your relatives gently suggest going through their cupboards and removing any expired foods. If your relative consumes expired food they can develop numerous food borne illnesses and put themselves in danger. Food safety can be especially important for relatives with Alzheimer’s or forms of Dementia. People affected by these diseases may forget when they had bought certain food items or forget to remove expired food items from their homes. These expired food items can cause them illness or even attract bugs. Ensure that your relative is eating properly and eating fresh foods by gently reminding them to check their pantries each month and throw out any old food.
If your elderly relative has disabilities that prevent them from moving easily, then you can install safety modifications in their kitchens to aid them in their mobility. Grab bars and non-slip rugs are essential for their mobility and can prevent them from falling. For seniors with walkers or wheelchairs, install grab bars near major appliances such as stoves and refrigerators. You do not want them grabbing onto these major appliances to help them move around the kitchen. Doing so could cause them to fall or injure themselves. Place grab bars on their walls and under counters for them to be able to move freely through their kitchen.
Elderly people want to keep their independence for as long as they can. To facilitate this, you can help out your elderly relatives by going over safety tips with them and installing safety modifications in their homes. Sit down with your relatives to ensure that they feel safe in their homes and can take care of themselves. By going over safety tips for them in their kitchens you can ensure that they will stay injury free while cooking. To ensure their safety in other parts of their homes also go over tips for them on how to stay safe in bathrooms and at night. Installing simple grab bars throughout their homes can easily help them traverse through their homes during the day and at night. Grab bars are especially important in showers and bathtubs. For an even greater peace of mind, you can sign your elderly relative up for life alert or a medical alert system. This way you can and they can both relax in knowing that they are safe and will always have a direct line to assistance.
Check out the following articles in our home care services blog for various safety tips:
- Fire Safety Tips for the Elderly
- Wheelchair Safety Tips for Seniors
- Kitchen Safety Tips For Seniors
- Lifting and Transferring: Tips for Family Caregivers
- Exercise Safety Tips for People with Osteoporosis