Kitchens are often the heart of our homes. We gather there to prepare meals, sort mail, and enjoy a cup of morning coffee while reading the newspaper. The average family spends over 175 hours each month in the kitchen. Older adults are no exception, especially once they are retired and have more leisure time.
Because of the amount of time spent in the kitchen, it’s important to make sure it is a safe environment. Conducting a kitchen safety audit can help you identify potential hazards and take steps to correct them.
How to Conduct a Safety Audit of a Senior’s Kitchen
- Test the smoke detector to make sure it is working properly. Set a reminder to check and change its batteries at least twice a year.
- Grease and dirt can gradually build up in the exhaust fan and ventilation system, creating a fire hazard. Inspect them at least once a year (or more if you do a lot of cooking).
- Do not hang dish towels or pot holders over the range or from oven handles. Even low-hanging curtains can be dangerous if they accidentally brush against a burner or the oven and ignite.
- If you are concerned your senior loved one is getting a little forgetful, installing an automatic shut-off feature on the range or purchasing a product such as Cook Stop might help. These devices monitor activity in the kitchen and turn the burner off if no movement is detected after a set amount of time.
- Keep a small, easy-to-operate fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Carefully review the directions before storing it.
Finally, keep long sleeves securely rolled up while you are cooking. This helps prevent sleeves from falling onto a burner or flame and catching fire. Encourage your senior loved one to adopt this practice or to only wear shorter sleeves while cooking.
Food Safety Tips for Seniors
Learning how to safely store and prepare food is also important.
- Storing foods at the proper temperate helps prevent food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses. In most instances, you should set the refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit to keep meats, dairy, and other perishables properly chilled.
- Good lighting also helps make food preparation safer. Make sure the stovetop and counters are well-lit.
- Have a secure location for storing sharp knives and utensils. If you have small children that visit often, make sure these items are stored where little hands cannot reach them.
Preventing Kitchen Falls
Second only to the bathroom, the kitchen is where seniors are most likely to experience a fall. Here’s what to look for to keep you and your loved ones safe:
- Place foods, spices, and frequently used ingredients in easy-to-reach cupboards. This makes stepstools and ladders less necessary.
- Get rid of all throw rugs that don’t have a non-skid backing. Replace them with non-skid mats. While they might not be as decorative, they are much safer.
- Install motion-sensitive nightlights along the path you or your loved one take to the kitchen at night.
Want to learn more about home safety for seniors? ”Strategies for Safety and Comfort” in our Home Design Guide is another Sunrise resource you might find helpful. This page shares tips on everything from furniture placement to bathroom safety.
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