Home-cooked meals are one of my favorite parts of visiting my older parents. However, knowing they’re doing all that cooking also makes me worry. Kitchens can be dangerous places for older adults, but my parents like to serve family favorites and want to eat the same foods they’ve always enjoyed. And while dining out occasionally is a treat for them, going to a restaurant every night is a chore.
Luckily, you can help your older loved one continue to enjoy worry-free cooking at home by following the simple steps below.
MicrowavesThe microwave is an ideal kitchen appliance for seniors. It shuts itself off when the cooking time is up, making it safe to cook hot meals and heat up soups, hot drinks or leftovers. The following tips can help when selecting and installing a microwave:
- Choose one with an easy-to-use control panel. Preprogrammed buttons for food types — such as a mug of tea, popcorn or a plated dinner make it simple to operate.
- Check the positioning. As people age, they may not have the height or upper-body strength to reach a microwave over the stove.
- Make sure there’s an empty countertop or other space available near the microwave to put down a hot dish immediately after taking it out of the microwave.
- Check to see which is safer in their kitchen — a microwave door that opens left to right or right to left.
- Heat up a few meals on your aging loved one’s dishes to make sure the dishes don’t get too hot to handle. Some materials will be burning hot to the touch, while others won’t. Remove the ones that could cause burns or scalds.
Stove RangesCooking on a stove range becomes second nature after generations of doing so. That can make it easy to cook on autopilot, then wander off and forget something. Here are some range features and add-ons that can help your aging loved ones prevent accidents:
- An automatic shut-off range can prevent accidental fires. Some use motion-sensor technology, so if someone isn’t present and moving about, the stove (or oven) shuts off. You can also retrofit an existing range with an automatic shut-off device.
- A hot surface indicator light helps warn against touching hot stove burners.
- Add a cooktop fire suppressor under the stove hood to stop unattended cooking fires. It’s easy to do, and some models attach just with magnets.
- Pots and pans with heat-resistant handles help prevent burns.
Refrigerator RemediesEven refrigerators require a few safety checks or an upgrade, depending on how old they are. The most important thing is to make sure the refrigerator and freezer maintain the correct temperatures.
- Look for a refrigerator with a digital display of current temperatures or retrofit a thermometer to the inside of older models.
- Opt for a model with an ice and water dispenser to help your loved one stay hydrated without juggling ice trays or pitchers of cold water. Keep a towel nearby to easily mop up drips or spills.
- Switch to a side-by-side refrigerator to make it easier for someone in a wheelchair or of smaller stature to reach the freezer.
Smarter Small AppliancesSome time ago, people would worry about having left the house with the iron or coffeepot still on. Fortunately for us, technology has created timers and automatic shut-off devices. If your loved one’s small appliances don’t have this shut-off feature, consider replacing them or installing an automatic shut-off outlet instead. Plug the appliances into the outlet and program them to shut off after a certain amount of time.
While you’re on the safety hunt, double-check these other common kitchen hazards:
- Remove or fix trip and fall hazards, such as area rugs and loose tiles or acrylic flooring.
- Move items to lower cabinets so that a ladder or step stool is never needed.
- Equip the kitchen with a dawn-to-dusk nightlight to prevent fumbling around in the dark.
Lea Schneider is a professional organizer who has aging parents. She writes for The Home Depot about her ideas for making their lives easier, including organizing their kitchen and upgrading their appliances. For more information about the appliances Lea talks about in this article, visit The Home Depot.
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