By Cindy Tulimieri and Karen DeRosas
The kitchen can be a daunting place as one ages. Not only do you have to consider the physical challenges when preparing a meal, one must think of the cognitive challenges as well because a kitchen can be a very dangerous place.
Loved ones often have concerns about the safe use of the stove or ability to carry a boiling pot of water. Luckily, with the use of some easy techniques and new technology, there are answers to keeping you safe in your kitchen for the duration.
Fall prevention is always the number one safety issue that should be addressed. Simple changes such as organizing frequently used items on the first one to two shelves above and below the counter can reduce falls and injury. Infrequently used items should be placed at the top that can be accessed by a family member or friend.
Kitchen chairs that have arms and are about 18 inches or higher off the ground are ideal for ease with sitting and standing. Always avoid chairs with wheels or that swivel. Non-slip flooring should be used as the kitchen floor is very likely to get wet. Flooring with texture to it, or vinyl flooring that is specifically made to be non-slip, is a nice way to go. Lastly, always pick up scatter rugs.
Memory impairment can be a common issue causing a big concern for safety in the kitchen. There are a variety of recommendations that can be given depending on the level of cognition. The range includes simply using an egg timer as a reminder that something is on the stove, to a sensor-guided stovetop that will automatically shut off if there is no movement around the stove for a pre-set amount of time.
Simply unplugging the stove and using the microwave or electric kettles (with auto shut off) are other options. Microwave meals, pre-made meals or cold meals such as sandwiches, cereal, salads or fruit may be the way to go in order to stay alone in your home.
Meals on Wheels is a program that can be accessed through the local council on aging/senior center. This program delivers one meal per day (that usually feeds you for two meals) for a low fee depending on your income level.
For people with joint pain or endurance issues (such as heart or lung disease), using a small push cart to transfer hot items from one place or another is also a great way to conserve energy and stay safe. Sliding pots and pans across the top of the counter instead of carrying them is a good option as well.
There are many large grip utensils available in department stores that can be used for joint conservation, as well as electric appliances such as electric can openers, choppers, food processers and blenders. Sitting as much as you are able while preparing a meal or washing dishes can conserve energy for the things you want to do rather than what you have to do.
Ideas should be personalized for your situation with the help of an occupational or physical therapist in order to keep you as independent as possible.
Cindy Tulimier is a Certified Occupational Therapist and Karen DeRosas has her masters in Physical Therapy. Both have an Executive Certificate for Home Modifications through the University of Southern California. As the founders of Independent Living Innovations, they have extensive experience working with elders and adults with disabilities. They can be reached at www.iliseniorservices.com, by calling 617-877-4036 or 978-866-8782 or emailing email@example.com.