The kitchen is generally one of the most high traffic, busiest rooms in the house, and it can also be one of the most dangerous if not approached with care. There are many potential hazards in the kitchen that can result in injury or worse for seniors.
Why does age play a role in kitchen safety?
As physical strength and mobility diminish with age, so too do response and reaction time, which can be problematic in a room with so many appliances and sharp objects.
Along with physical capabilities, cognitive function is typically on the decline as well, which can result in issues like forgetting to turn a burner off, or leaving something in the oven while it is still on. These two aspects of physical and mental decline lead directly to the two biggest causes of concern for older adults in the kitchen:
Falls in the Kitchen
The decrease in physical strength and mobility that comes with aging is one of the biggest factors for increased risk of falls. Strength and mobility are directly related to coordination and balance, and if your foundation is not stable, i.e. your legs, then it is much easier to topple over with minimal cause.
Increased risk of falls can also arise from poor eyesight, side effects of medications, or clutter and slippery surfaces in the home. A disproportionate number of seniors are treated in the hospital every year due to falls in the home.
Another unfortunate fact about falls for seniors, is that once it happens the first time it can affect quality of life and rattle the confidence, making a repeat episode more likely.
Fires in the Kitchen
Another obvious hazard in the kitchen is the risk of fires. Fires are an increased risk for seniors in the kitchen because of memory lapses, forgetting to turn off the oven, or leaving food cooking on an unattended burner. If a fire does in fact break out, seniors are then at a much higher risk for serious injury and death because limited mobility may mean they are not able to get out of the kitchen or the house in time.
Kitchen Safety Tips for Seniors
There are several useful tips and precautionary practices caregivers, seniors, and their families can employ to enhance safety and reduce the risk of injury.
Some useful suggestions, may include:
- Good lighting
- Keeps floors clean and safe
- Safeguard appliances
- Safe food prep and cooking practices
Being able to see any possible trip hazards or other potential dangers is a good first step to avoiding injury. Seniors should have regular eye exams to ensure any vision problems are being corrected, and that lighting in the home, and particularly in the kitchen, is abundant and bright.
Assure there is sufficient lighting in cooking areas, as well as overhead, and that light switches are easily accessible. Reducing glare coming off countertops can also be helpful.
Clutter around the kitchen is another major risk factor, increasing trip hazards on floors and the possibility of sharp or heavy objects falling off counters or tables onto feet. Good organization is the best way to negate this concern, making sure every item in the kitchen has a suitable home and making sure that is where those items are kept. Clearing away surfaces like floors, counters, and tables is a good safety practice.
Clean and Slip-Free Floors
Slip and fall accidents are highly prevalent among seniors in unsafe conditions. Making sure floors are kept clean and clear is essential for maximum safety. High traction floor cleaners can be used to provide extra anti-slip protection.
There are all kinds of appliances in the kitchen that can present threats if not used with caution. All appliances that are not in use should be unplugged and kept tucked away to prevent them falling off counters and tables. All appliances should also be kept clean and in good working order to avoid health risks. Timers can be used for making sure the oven is turned off after use.
Safe Food Prep and Cooking Practices
Accidents can easily occur during the preparation and cooking of meals. A lot of meals are time sensitive, with the need to make sure all portions and components come together at the same time creating the need for swift action. Ensure knives are properly stored to prevent quickly reaching for the wrong end. Pot handles on stove tops should be turned inward so they won’t get knocked on the floor. Loose clothing also runs the risk of getting caught on something or catching fire.
When all these practices are combined, it greatly reduces the risk of injury and accidents for seniors in the kitchen.