Seniors love to cook. Cooking is a great way to keep them active and busy. They love preparing meals when they have visitors or when their children or grandchildren come over. However, kitchens can be dangerous for seniors.
According to the United States Fire Administration, of the 379,600 residential fires in 2018, 50.7% resulted from cooking. 29.5% of residential fires that resulted in injuries are because of cooking.
Cuts and burns because of cooking accidents can also send a senior to the emergency room. Depending on the degree of the injury, these accidents may even warrant a prolonged stay in the hospital.
The good news is these accidents are avoidable. There are many things that can be done to make a kitchen safer for seniors. Most of these are simple and practical things that can transform any kitchen into a safer place for elders.
Kitchen Safety Tips for Elders
Organize the Kitchen
Keeping a kitchen organized is a great way to improve safety. A lot of kitchen accidents are avoidable, and a simple organization of one’s kitchen can make it safer.
TIP: Removing kitchen clutter can make a kitchen safer. Remove items and equipment that do not belong to the kitchen. A kitchen is a place for cooking food. If there are tools or equipment not meant for cooking in a kitchen, move them to where they belong.
Some seniors store their handyman tools and equipment under the kitchen sink. They like keeping them within reach in case they need them. However, these tools can also cause accidents in the kitchen. A stray nail or bolt can cause a slip, which might result in injuries.
TIP: Keep cooking utensils and equipment within reach. Having to reach for kitchen utensils and equipment can result in slips. Equipment stacked on top of one another can also fall on a senior and cause a head injury.
Having items within easy reach also means that elders won’t have to stand on chairs or stools to reach them. This can reduce the likelihood of a senior losing balance and falling down. Move heavy items to where they can be reached without standing on chairs or stools.
TIP: Store knives separately. Organizing a kitchen entails ensuring that utensils are in their proper place. Knives and other bladed utensils should be stored separately. Storing knives with spoons and forks can result in accidental cuts.
Invest in Kitchen Equipment
Having the proper kitchen equipment can help improve kitchen safety. When seniors are properly equipped, they can cook without worrying about kitchen accidents that can lead to injuries. Substandard kitchen equipment can also lead to a fire.
TIP: Correct size pots and pans. Using the correct size of pots and pans can help prevent them from toppling over while cooking. It is important not to use pots and pans that are too small for a stove. When a pan or pot is too small, it might slip off and cause burn injuries.
Using the correct size of pots and pans is also economical. It can help ensure efficient use of heat, which can help conserve gas or electricity.
TIP: Buy pots with two handles. As people get old, the strength of their grip also decreases. This means that they can no longer carry heavy items that they can previously carry with ease. Grip strength starts decreasing starting at the age of 55. Decrease in grip strength can further aggravate when a person has osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
The use of pots with two handles can help ensure seniors can carry pots without accidentally dropping them. It can also help improve their mobility and balance since they are not relying on just one hand to carry the pot’s weight.
TIP: Replace Glass Items with Plastics. Glass can break and result in cut injuries. Broken glass can also result in puncture wounds that can lead to blood loss. They can also result in cut tendons that can impair the mobility of seniors.
Whenever possible, replace glass items with plastic counterparts. Examples of kitchen items that can be replaced with plastic ones are glasses and plates. These items are easy to break when dropped. Replacing them with plastic alternatives can help seniors avoid breaking them and injuring themselves.
Kitchen Safety Devices
One way of avoiding kitchen accidents is by using technological devices. There are now home safety items that can help make a kitchen safer for seniors, helping to actively avoid accidents.
- Installing fire and smoke sensors can help seniors detect possible fires and put them out before they get out of control. There are also home security systems that include such sensors. When these sensors detect smoke or fire, they warn the security company so that the proper authorities can be alerted.
- Use bright lighting. A well-lit kitchen is a safe kitchen. Installing bright lights can help seniors easily move around. It is no secret that one’s eyesight deteriorates with age. A well-lit environment can help a senior see clearly in a kitchen. This can help prevent a senior from stepping and stripping on small items on the floor.
- Install a nightlight. There are instances when seniors need to head to the kitchen in the middle of the night, such as when they need to get a drink or something to eat. They can safely go to the kitchen with a nightlight without accidentally bumping or tripping on a piece of kitchen equipment.
- Using timers can also help improve the safety of a kitchen. Some seniors leave what they are cooking and completely forget about it. This can result in the food getting burned and can even result in a kitchen fire.
Seniors can set timers so they can get alerted in case they forget that they have something on the stove. A simple egg will suffice. With a timer, seniors can safely leave what they are cooking and do other household chores.
Back to the Basics
When people do something for a long time, they tend to develop techniques that shorten the process. This can help make things more efficient. However, oftentimes, people also forget about basic safety techniques that can help protect them from injuries.
- Wear proper kitchen attire. There is a reason why professional chefs wear similar clothes. These clothes are not just meant to make them easily distinguishable as chefs. A chef’s clothes are designed to make them safe to wear in a kitchen. This doesn’t mean that seniors should wear chefs’ clothes while cooking at home.
To avoid accidents, seniors should wear appropriate clothes while cooking. Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes in the kitchen. Loose sleeves and pants can snag on pots and other kitchen equipment. Long and loose sleeves may accidentally catch fire.
- Use kitchen gloves. Using kitchen gloves and mitts can go a long way towards avoiding burnt hands and fingers. Kitchen gloves can also help seniors prevent cuts.
- Turn pot handles inwards. Turning pot handles inwards is a basic kitchen rule that many often forgets. When the handle of a kitchen pot is facing outwards, the handle can accidentally get snagged, resulting in burn injuries.
Keeping a kitchen and its equipment properly maintained can help make it a safer environment. A properly maintained kitchen is also more efficient and can help conserve energy and reduce utilities.
- Check for leaks. Leaks from faucets and water pipes can cause flooding. This can lead to water damage and the possible destruction of appliances and equipment. Water damage can also weaken the foundation of a house and make it unsafe to live in.
Leaks can also make the kitchen floor slippery. Among adults ages 65 years old and older, slip and fall accidents account for 40% of fatal injuries. Detecting and fixing leaks can help minimize the likelihood of slips and falls in the kitchen.
Have a licensed plumber check for leaks at least twice a year. This is an excellent way to detect leaks and other possible plumbing issues before they get worse. A plumbing issue that gets detected early is easier and cheaper to fix.
- Check for stripped wires. Stripped wires can cause electrical shock and may even cause fires. Ensuring that there are no exposed wires that can help seniors avoid such accidents. Have a licensed electrician check for exposed wires so they can get replaced before they cause accidents.
- Remove toxic items like bleach and ammonia from the kitchen. It is common for many people to store bleach and other cleaning liquids under the kitchen sink. This is a dangerous practice that seniors should avoid.
Bleach, ammonia, and other cleaning chemicals can release toxic fumes. These fumes can cause nausea, coughing, and chest pains. Toxic fumes can also lead to eye irritations and injuries.
Although they are easier to reach when stored under the kitchen sink, it is safer to store harsh cleaning chemicals far from food preparation areas. Store them together with other cleaning tools and equipment. This is a more organized and safer approach.
With the help of these kitchen safety tips for elders, cooking and working in the kitchen can be safer. These tips can also make cooking more enjoyable and efficient.