In general, kitchens are among the most dangerous areas for seniors in any home. For those suffering from dementia, the level of risk is even higher.
Diminished vision, balance, reflexes, and even pain sensitivity all increase the risk that seniors suffering from dementia face when in this part of the house. Fortunately, there are ways through which you can increase kitchen safety for your aging loved ones.
Read below for a detailed list of simple kitchen safety tips for seniors with dementia to help make the kitchen safer.
Electricity is used to power a variety of modern kitchen appliances. Faulty circuits, overloaded extension cords, dangling wires, and exposed sockets are dangerous to your aging loved ones.
To eliminate or minimize the risks involved, it is recommended that you
- Take the time to have all electrical circuits and wiring in and around the kitchen checked by a qualified electrician.
- Circuit breakers and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) should be installed and/or tested to ensure they are in perfect working order.
- It is also important that you check extension cords to ensure that they are not overloaded.
- Any sockets that are warm to the touch should also be checked.
- Last but not least, any power outlets that are not in use should be covered using socket covers.
Normally, kitchen appliances are both useful and harmless. However, they can be quite dangerous when used for even basic cooking by seniors with dementia.
Cooking stoves, garbage disposal units, and microwave ovens, among others, present serious hazards for seniors. But there are more dementia-friendly kitchen appliance options out there.
- Gas stoves should be fitted with an automated shut-off mechanism as a backup in case the pilot goes out. Learn more about stove safety for the elderly here.
- If you do not want your loved one to use the stove entirely, consider removing the knobs or installing stove locks whenever you are not using them.
- Think about deactivating the garbage disposal as well. Alternatively, you can have the switch for the unit relocated to another location, away from the sink light switch, to avoid confusion.
- Implement kitchen timers for elderly people who may forget about their food while it is cooking.
- Microwaves should be unplugged from the socket to keep your loved one from using them in a risky way, like placing canned foods in them.
Fire Safety Measures
Fire safety in the kitchen is essential. To keep your loved one safe and organized when using the kitchen, it is important to
- Ensure that the fire safety system put in place is in proper working condition.
- Smoke detectors should be checked to ensure they still work; batteries should be checked biannually.
- You should also install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and ensure that your loved one knows how to use it in case they need to when you are not present.
Store Dangerous Utensils In A Secure Cabinet
The kitchen is full of sharp and easily breakable utensils that pose a serious risk to seniors with dementia. As such,
- All utensils that can be easily broken, forks, and knives should be stored in cabinets secured with latches or child-proof locks.
- To eliminate the danger associated with broken dishes, it is recommended that you use unbreakable plates and dishes where possible.
Still on the subject of organizing kitchen cabinets,
- After removing them from the highest and lowest cabinets, it is also recommended that you place all frequently used items in easy-to-reach places.
- All drawers should be closed at all times to keep seniors from accidentally bumping into them.
Store Dangerous Cleaning Supplies And Flammable Liquids Away From The Kitchen
If you do not want your loved one with dementia to confuse dangerous cleaning or flammable products for cleaning staples, it is recommended that you keep such products away from the kitchen.
Those suffering from different forms of the condition may confuse sponges, matches, and plastics, among others, for edible products. The main reason for this is that people with dementia can easily confuse labeling such products.
Hot Water Can Be A Risk
Dementia is associated with diminished sensitivity to physical pain. This means that they may not be able to know how bad various physical injuries, such as burns, actually are unless they are told.
To ensure that your loved one does not suffer serious hot water burns, unknowingly, address this area as well.
- You should consider installing a single senior-friendly faucet for both hot and cold water, as it makes the work of regulating the temperature of hot water much easier.
- Also, ensure the water heater’s temperature is on the safe setting indicated on the temperature dial.
Ensure Food Safety
Expired food products and spoiled food are other areas of concern when it comes to making the kitchen safer for seniors suffering from dementia. To make things worse, their weakened immune system is bound to struggle with overcoming cases of food poisoning and foodborne illnesses.
To minimize these risks, it is recommended that you regularly check the food items stored in your pantry and fridge, throwing out anything that is expired or has gone bad. This goes for all perishable cooking supplies.
Be On The Lookout For Fall Hazards
The kitchen is full of fall hazards. Spilled liquids/foods and throw rugs can be dangerous to seniors with dementia, especially given their diminished vision and balance. It is, therefore important that you
- Get rid of any kitchen rugs within the kitchen area.
- Some rugs can be secured to the floor using double-stick tape.
- Any spills should also be cleared away immediately to avoid any accidents as well.
- You should also be on the lookout for fluid leaks from the refrigerator because, in addition to being a fall hazard, the fluid may damage the floors if left standing for an extended period.
Infographic: Kitchen Safety Tips for Seniors with Dementia
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The kitchen is one of the most dangerous areas for people with dementia. Fortunately, you can make it safer with a few simple tips outlined above.
While following the above tips will definitely help make your kitchen safer, it is important to remember that dementia is a progressive disease that gets worse with time.
You, therefore, need to stay on your toes, making more changes as time goes by to ensure that this part of the house remains as safe as possible.
Do you have other kitchen safety tips for seniors with dementia that you want to share? Tell me about them in the comments below!