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Tips For Seniors On How To Be Safe In The Kitchen

Senior woman making a meal in her kitchen.

The kitchen is certainly the heart of the home for many families and it’s where everyone gathers and meals are prepared with love.

But, it can also be a dangerous place in the home where senior adults can be vulnerable.

Injuries and kitchen fires can occur and that is why making the kitchen a safe environment for seniors is so important!

Whether the older homeowners are doing the cooking, or a home care provider, the kitchen safety tips in this article can help anyone to create a safer kitchen.

What Goes Into An Elderly Friendly Kitchen?

There are 10 areas to focus on to make the kitchen a safe place for seniors:

  • Fire Safety is first and foremost the very first thing that should be addressed.
  • Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors are necessary tools in your kitchen. Just be sure to check / test them on a regular basis.
  • Modifications to organize the kitchen to decrease clutter, decrease excess mobility and help with fall prevention.
  • Re-arranging cabinets, drawers, pantry and refrigerator to make it easier to reach for things, especially heavy items.
  • Keeping small appliances at easy reach such as waist level on counters or table.
  • Ample Lighting is often overlooked but so important as older adults’ vision tends to decrease.
  • Anti Slip Flooring to help decrease fall risks.
  • Senior Friendly Appliances that are equipped with safety monitors, automatic shut-off devices, alarms and are also easy to use.
  • Maintenance of kitchen equipment is important to keep things running smoothly and minimize possible hazards.
  • Useful Tools and Gadgets that allow older adults to be as independent and safe as possible.
  • Kitchen Chairs are often overlooked as a safety factor for seniors. Many older adults use kitchen chairs with coasters to make it easier to move the chair but these could end up causing an injury.
  • Removing Sharp Objects for homes with seniors who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Cooking safety tips for seniors – besides avoiding loose clothing when cooking, we have even more tips on kitchen safety issues concerning cooking

There are many potential dangers in the kitchen for seniors.

These include sharp objects, hot surfaces, and slippery floors.

Fire Prevention Tactics

There are several ways that you can help to reduce the risk of fires in a kitchen of a senior loved one.

  • Installation of senior friendly smoke alarms
  • Installation of fire extinguishes (ones that are easy to use by an older adult)
  • Installation of stove alarms and automatic shut-off devices

Senior Friendly Smoke Alarms In And Near The Kitchen

In 2015, older adults…Represented 15% of the US population but suffered 40% of all fire deaths. Had a 2.7 times greater risk of dying in a fire than the total population. Ages 85 and over were 3.8 times more likely to die in a fire than the total population.

U.S. Fire Administration

It’s recommended to have one smoke detector on each level of your home, in addition have one in each bedroom and another one outside every sleeping area (i.e. – the hallway to the bedrooms).

For older adults that have difficulty hearing – it’s recommended to install smoke detectors with flashing strobe lights like this one from First Alert

In addition, if you have an Alexa device in the home – you can use the Alexa Guard skill which detects the sound of an alarm (fire or burglar) and it can even detect the sound of breaking glass (in case someone tries to break in through a window). 

If Alexa Guard hears any of these sounds, it will send you a 10 second clip of the sound it detected.  This is a great option for adult children who want to monitor their parents’ home!

Also, the American Red Cross has programs throughout the USA where they will install free smoke alarms in households that cannot afford it.

Each state program is different so please contact the Red Cross for more information.

Just visit this link and change the zip code to your own and you will be given your local office.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that people over the age of 65 have a 2.7 times greater risk of dying in a kitchen fire than the general population.

Easiest Fire Extinguisher For Seniors To Use

I would recommend that any kitchen (whether there are seniors in the home or not) be equipped with at least one fire extinguisher.

But for most seniors, using one would be a bit difficult.

An alternative is a Fire Extinguishing Blanket . This will put out a pan fire (liquid or grease) and it very inexpensive.

All anyone would have to do to put out the fire with this blanket is to pull down the tabs on the wrapper, open the blanket and toss it onto the fire.

A very easy alternative to the traditional fire extinguisher.

Stove Alarms And Automatic Shut Off Devices

Gas stove alarms monitor for gas leaks. They give an audible alert if they detect one.

The most budget-friendly model is a gas stove alarm that you can just plug in and walk away from.

I like the Nighthawk Plug-in Carbon Monoxide and Explosive Gas Alarm.

It plugs into any standard outlet and detects natural gas, propane gas, and carbon monoxide.

Gas stove automatic shut off devices will turn off the range after a few minutes of non-use. NOTE: you’ll likely need a certified plumber to install one of these devices.

Gas Ranges

Most people are familiar with the standard electric stovetop, but many homes also have gas ranges.

Gas ranges offer a few advantages over electric ones, such as more precise temperature control.

However, they also come with some unique safety concerns.

Here are a few tips to help keep you safe when using a gas range.

  • First, always make sure that the area around the stove is clear and free of flammable materials. This includes things like towels, pot holders, paper towels, and anything else that could easily catch fire.
  • Second, pay attention to the ventilation in your kitchen. Gas stoves produce carbon monoxide, so it’s important to have good ventilation to keep the fumes from building up and causing sickness or even death.
  • Third, never leave food cooking unattended. If you have to leave the kitchen for any reason, turn off the stove first.
  • Fourth, always use a timer when cooking. This will help you keep track of how long the food has been cooking and prevent it from overcooking and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Finally, keep your kitchen clean. clutter and grease are two of the biggest fire hazards in any kitchen. Be sure to wipe up spills immediately, and keep your counters and floors free of crumbs and other debris.

By following these simple tips, you can help make your kitchen a safe place for everyone.

Kitchen Modifications For The Elderly

The easiest way to start making a kitchen more senior friendly is to make the kind of modifications needed to organize it so that items are easy to access and use.

This of course helps to eliminate any hazards that may cause someone to fall and/or injure themselves.

This modification process is best done WITH your senior loved one (if possible) – after all – everyone likes to be in control of their own environment so including them will help to give them that control.

Also – going through this process with your elderly loved one will also give you the opportunity to explain WHY you are doing what you are doing.

In the long run, this may help to keep the kitchen area safe and avoid any future arguments.

You can read more about kitchen modifications and organization in our article on Making A Kitchen Senior Friendly.

De-clutter Kitchen Countertops, Cabinets, Refrigerator and Pantry

I know this can be difficult, especially for seniors but it’s important to remove unnecessary items from the counter tops, window sills, kitchen table, etc.

The general idea is to make enough room for cooking and food preparation.

Also, don’t forget to de-clutter the refrigerator and pantry.

These are often overlooked areas but can contribute to fall hazards.

I once had a patient who kept her pantry and refrigerator packed with food (most of which was outdated).

While making lunch one day she went hunting for a can of artichokes in her pantry but because it was so packed, she ended up spilling several items onto the floor before she found her artichokes.

She bent down to pick up those items, lost her balance and fell.

She fractured her wrist and never recovered from it.

I also remember my mother had several decorative items on her small kitchen table.

So, if she had to put more than one small plate on the table for dinner – she couldn’t.

At least not without having to move things about, knocking things down and then having to reach down to the floor for what she dropped.

It was a struggle to get her to remove those items but after she fell from her chair when she tried to pick up the pepper shaker (which she never used anyway) she finally agreed to de-clutter the table.

(By the way – she ended up with a bruised elbow from that fall and never got her full range of motion back in that elbow)

Re-arrange Small Kitchen Appliances and Items For Easy Access

Now that the areas have been de-cluttered, the next step is to move the most commonly used items to the countertop level where it will be an easy reach for them.

This is a very important part of making the kitchen safer for your elderly parent(s).

The physical condition of your senior will dictate where items should be placed. Some tips I can give you are:

  • Don’t put EVERYTHING out on the countertop or wherever you decide is a good spot. Keep only the most used items out.
  • Sometimes, removing the doors to some kitchen cabinets can make it much easier to reach for items – especially if the person is in a wheelchair or using a walker or cane.
  • Replacing counter top gadgets and appliances (coffee maker, can opener, toaster ovens (if you use a small one), jar opener, etc. are all a great way to clean up the counter tops, free up space and make the kitchen ultra efficient. (Of course, I would recommend to remove items that are not used or very seldom used)
  • If possible, replace glass items with non-breakable and lightweight items. These days there are many very pretty patterns of lightweight dinnerware and unbreakable drinking glasses.

Senior Friendly Kitchen Cabinet Products

One of my favorite kitchen products are the pull out shelves.

They can easily be installed into existing cabinets (no need to do a complete kitchen makeover!) and they are so easy to use.

Below are some other products for the cabinets that can make re-arranging the kitchen much easier.

  • Pull out shelves are a great way to avoid reaching too far to the back of a cabinet.
  • Pull down shelves are also another wonderful product for overhead cabinets.
  • Lazy susan trays are wonderful especially for corner cabinets.
  • Sliding basket organizers work well not only in kitchen cabinets but in the pantry too.

Although this article is about the kitchen, please know that some of these can also work very well in other rooms in the house.

The bathroom, the garage, a craft room, the laundry room, etc.

Induction Stoves

A great advantage of induction stoves for seniors is that the cooktop does not have a hot surface so the chances of getting burned from touching the cooktop is eliminated.

But, there are cons to this type of stove as well.

Since induction stoves use magnets for cooking, they may not be safe for seniors with pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators or insulin pumps.

You can read more about induction stoves here.

Ample Lighting Throughout The Kitchen

illuminate the counter tops with under cabinet lights

One of the most often overlooked areas of safety in the kitchen and everywhere else in the home is good lighting.

It can be an easy way to make the kitchen a safer place.

Of course, you want ample lighting in the specific areas of the kitchen where you cook and prepare meals.

We all lose vision as we get older, even without a diagnosis such as cataracts or macular degeneration.

…as our eyes age, less light reaches the retina, making trip hazards, obstacles and contrasting edges harder to see.

So it’s important to make sure there is lots of lighting throughout the kitchen as well as the rest of the house.

But if you can only make lighting changes to specific areas, I would recommend that you focus on…

  • Over the counter tops
  • Over the stove top
  • Over the sink
  • If there are 2 entrances to the kitchen there should be light switches at each entrance

Some tips about lighting in the kitchen (and other rooms in the house).

  • Use smart home tools like Alexa and Google home. Set them up to control the lights in the kitchen so all your senior loved one has to do is speak to it. Of course this would only work if they can remember the specific commands they must give to these devices.
  • Another idea is to install a motion detection light in the kitchen. This works if it’s too expensive to add another light switch to the wall.
  • Under cabinet lighting is not only very decorative but extremely useful, especially for those kitchen corners where everything seems to get lost behind the blender! You can choose between plugins and battery powered lights.
  • I would also recommend to place these under cabinet lights under the lower cabinets as well to illuminate the floor area. These also make a great night light for anyone wandering into the kitchen for that 2 am snack.
  • Rocker light switches may be easier for your elderly loved one to use than the standard flip switch.
  • Several recessed lights on the ceiling will put more light in the room than the standard one hanging light in the middle of the ceiling. It does cost more but if your elderly parent has any vision problems at all – the extra lighting may save them some serious injury.

Anti Slip Flooring In The Kitchen

We all know that falls are a very real danger for our aging parents and loved ones.

The consequences of a fall can be devastating.

I’ve written before about the 5 major areas to consider to help prevent an elderly person from falling:

  1. Be aware of the side effects of medications.
  2. Understand that some diseases such as Parkinsons carry a high risk factor for falling.
  3. Make sure the clothing and shoes the elderly person is wearing does not contribute to a possible fall.
  4. Clutter is a major contributor to falls, especially if vision is a problem. So declutter and organize the living areas.
  5. Use safety devices (such as grab bars) throughout the house.

Read My Article On How To Help Keep An Elderly Person From Falling

Kitchens and bathrooms are two of the most common locations inside a home where a senior person falls.

Mostly because these are the two rooms where they are forced to stand, bend and twist to perform their tasks AND also because the there’s a higher chance of wet floors in these two rooms making them more slippery.

But, not all is lost. There are ways to make an existing floor less slippery.

Companies like Slip Doctors and Slip Tec Solutions all provide products that can be used to make any flooring (ceramic, wood, vinyl, etc.) less slippery and more safe.

Kitchen Chairs For Seniors

An area of the kitchen that seniors and caregivers tend to neglect is the kitchen nook – the table and chairs (if there is one) in the kitchen area.

In my personal experience with patients and family members is that the kitchen chairs and stools are usually on casters (wheels).

Now, I know this makes it easier to pull the chair out but it also makes it easier for the chair to roll away while you are attempting to sit or stand up.

But this does not mean that you need to purchase new chairs if you already have ones with casters.

The solution is to replace those regular casters with safety ones like these below.

These safety casters lock when there’s no weight on the chair but when someone sits in the chair then they unlock allowing the person to roll the chair.

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