The kitchen can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the house, and by far the majority of kitchen accidents involve either children or the elderly. Here are some simple tips for helping your older relative maintain their independence for longer, by making their kitchen as safe as possible.
Think Fire First
Fire is a major risk anywhere in the house for an elderly person, but the kitchen is a particular hotspot. Ensure that there is a fire blanket and a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and check regularly that your loved one knows how to use it. If necessary, print large, simple instructions, and attach them to the fire equipment.
Burns and Scalds
Although the elderly are less likely to receive a burn or scald than some younger age groups, those they do receive are four times more likely to be fatal. To cut the risk of burns and scalds in the kitchen, ensure that your relative has a cordless jug kettle, and teach them to only fill it as full as they need it each time.
Make sure that cooker controls are at the front of the appliance, and that your loved one knows how to operate them safely. Consider investing in an auto-shutoff device for the cooker and hob - these are not cheap, but do offer considerable peace of mind, especially if your loved one has dementia or is likely to leave things burning. Get a set of double handled pans to make it easier for frailer hands to lift saucepans.
Don't keep medication in the kitchen, and try to ensure that all cleaning equipment is clearly labelled as such. If your elderly relative doesn't do the cleaning themselves, store cleaning liquids out of sight and reach. Ask permission to go through the cupboards and fridge on a regular basis, to remove and discard out of date items.
Slips, Falls and Cuts
How slippery is the kitchen floor? Is it possible to install non-slip flooring? What about the lighting? Is it adequate in all corners of the kitchen? If there is more than one doorway, are the light switches at all entrances?
Store knives in a knife block, not loose in drawers. Keep counters clear of clutter, and try to store heavy items at waist height. If there's enough room, don't store anything your loved one will want to get at beyond their reach - if you have to, provide a sturdy set of steps.
The key is to look around the kitchen with an eye for risks - it's like child-proofing the kitchen, but with consideration for your elderly relative's dignity and independence.