Many families grew up with the kitchen as a focal point and central gathering place in the home. For many seniors who still live at home, they now prepare a meal for themselves alone. Kitchen safety is critical because the kitchen is a place where accidents often occur. When it comes to seniors and kitchen safety, here are some facts:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that people over the age of 65 have a 2.5 times greater risk of dying in a kitchen fire than the general population.
- The National Fire Protection Association reports that three in ten home fires start in the kitchen, more than any other room in the house.
Besides being injured in a kitchen fire, seniors are also at risk for falling when attempting to get at items stored out of reach (both too high and too low) and tripping while taking food to other rooms. Other factors that contribute to injuries in the kitchen are confusion, being less able to take quick action in the case of a fire, taking medications that affect cognition, and a decrease in balance.
In terms of fire prevention, never leave food unattended while cooking (including leaving the house with food cooking in the oven). It is the primary cause of kitchen fires.
Special kitchen safety devices and alternative cooking options can also decrease the risk of fires in the kitchen. Below are some great options.
Automatic Shut-off Devices
Electric and gas stove turn-off products come with a timer, a motion sensor, and an automatic stove shut-off. Here are 4 things to consider:
- Some units allow you to set how many minutes you want the food to be left cooking unattended and others come with a preset time (eight minutes) that cannot be changed.
- Turning Stove Back On. Once the stove has been automatically turned off, some units only require the person to return to the kitchen for the stove to come back on when they walk into the room, whereas others must be manually turned off and back on again.
- Stove Plug. Some units can only be used with modern, 4-prong stove plugs and outlets.
- Sensor Placement. Sensors are placed on the stove.
- Most units are between $300 and $400, but well worth the cost to keep a loved one safe.
Automatic Fire Extinguishers
These are devices installed under the range hood. They are small cans or nozzles that are heat-triggered and automatically dispense fire extinguishing powder (mostly baking soda) when sprayed onto a stove-top fire. They can be found on Amazon.com – one device is called Auto-Out.
Microwaves as an Alternative to a Stove
Many seniors, although they might not have used a microwave before, find a microwave a good alternative to using the stove. Once they learn how to use one, they will often choose the microwave over the stove or oven. Family members can make frozen dinners that can be heated up and are very convenient. There are simple microwaves being manufactured right now that only have a few buttons to use. Labels can be taped on the buttons to help the senior use the microwave safely. Guidelines must be reviewed, including never using aluminum foil or metal containers in the microwave, never heating sealed objects, and being careful when taking containers out as they may be very hot.
Other Kitchen Safety Guidelines
- Test smoke detectors on a regular basis
- Clean cluttered areas
- Use a reacher-grabber to reach items on high shelves
- Remove area rugs
- Label and date food with expiration dates so it is easy to see when food has expired
- Replace glass items with plastic