For many families, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It is the room where everyone comes together for meals and conversation. Yet, this is the same room where potentially dangerous situations can, and do, happen. Mishaps do occur, but with some careful planning, those accidents can be minimized.
Seniors, especially those aging in place, can make a number of adjustments so that their kitchens are safe and more senior-friendly. Caregivers or loved ones can help their seniors organize the kitchen contents and layout in a manner that removes potential hazards as well as installing safety devices for emergencies. The following tips can help seniors who plan on aging in place reduce or eliminate the most common types of kitchen hazards.
Organizing Tips to Make Your Kitchen Safer
1. Flooring and Mats: If you have mobility or stability issues, non-slip flooring and mats are ideal to aid in preventing slips and falls. Wearing shoes or slippers that have non-slip bottoms helps to prevent slips. Always clean up any liquid or food that falls onto the floor. Use a simple sponge mop or a disposable floor-cleaning sheet when washing the floor. Wash the floor in small sections and let each section dry before cleaning another section. If you use a walker or a cane and are concerned about slipping on a wet surface, ask a family member or your caregiver to help with mopping the floor.
2. Flammable Liquids and Chemicals: To prevent the possibility of a fire, keep your flammable liquids or chemicals such as cleaning products stored away from the kitchen in a garage or laundry room. If that is not possible, place these products in an area that can be locked when not being used. Flammable liquids and chemicals can explode when exposed to heat or extreme sunlight.
3. Dishes, Glasses, and Table Utensils: Our dexterity, strength, and flexibility lessen as we age. Replacing your kitchen wares with unbreakable objects eliminates the risk of breaking kitchen wares that can cause serious cuts and trips to the emergency room. Separate and keep your sharp knives apart from the other utensils to avoid accidentally grabbing one when getting other cutlery. Use a knife rack if you have enough empty counter space.
4. Pots and Pans: Because pots and pans are heavy objects, keep them at or below waist level. They will be easier to handle and you have removed the risk of having one fall on your head from a high storage shelf.
5. Appliances: Keep your counter space as clean as possible when not working in the kitchen. Store appliances such as an electric can-opener, blender, mixer, bread maker, or slow cooker in the pantry or on an easily reachable shelf of a cabinet when not in use. Unplug and roll up the cords of frequently used appliances such as a toaster or a coffee pot that remain on a countertop when not in use. This eliminates tripping over a loose cord and prevents any appliance from accidentally turning on during a power surge or from a malfunction.
6. Doors, drawers, and Clutter: You can avoid bumps, falls, and other kitchen hazards by closing all drawers, cabinet doors, storage area doors, and pantry doors when not in use. Remove any clutter that collects on countertops, the kitchen table, or in front of empty wall spaces. Having a clear view of all surface areas will reduce the potential for tripping over objects or grabbing something that can seriously cut your fingers.
Safety Devises to Make Your Kitchen Safer
1. Smoke Detector: Most municipalities require that all homes and apartments be equipped with smoke detectors. Having a smoke detector in the kitchen will alert you if flammable items such as dishtowels, linen, curtains, tablecloths, loose clothing, or aprons placed too close to the stove begin to smolder or catch fire. Whether your stove is electric or gas, grease fires are another hazard you can avoid with a smoke detector.
2. Fire Extinguisher: Buy a fire extinguisher, learn how to use it, and place it in a handy location for emergency situations.
3. Lighting: Install light bulbs designated as daylight bulbs to brighten the lighting in the kitchen. You can avoid tripping over something left out of place when you have a well-lit kitchen.
4. Grab Bars: Install grab bars in the kitchen areas where you are concerned about the possibility of falling. This can be along a wall, next to a stove, or along the edge of countertops.
Your kitchen is an important setting in your daily life. Having a place that is safe for cooking and eating means that everything in the kitchen needs to be thoughtfully arranged. Having a safe kitchen can contribute to your peace of mind as you live independently.