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Kitchen Safety and Alzheimer's Disease

The kitchen is the heart of most families' homes. Now that you have a family member with dementia, you want to keep the kitchen as safe as it can be.

Kitchen countertops and cabinets are filled with dangerous items - poisonous cleaning products, sharp knives and scissors and heavy pots and pans. You will need to secure the area by removing or locking up these items.

As you install locks on your cabinets, you may want to do some research and find the best sort of lock. Locks made for childproofing, are not recommended. Realize that as an adult, your loved one is much stronger than a child and even with dementia still will probably be able to figure out the latch. An alternative option is an invisible cabinet lock that is opened by using a magnetic key. This keeps the doors locked without it being obvious to your loved one that he or she is being locked out of a cupboard in his or her own home.

As your loved one’s condition worsens, it may become necessary to lock the refrigerator. Sometimes people with Alzheimer’s disease will place non-food items in the refrigerator, such as a purse or keys. He or she may take items out and accidentally leave them on the counter to spoil, or even eat uncooked meat or other foods that can be harmful. If you are unable to deter you loved one from opening the refrigerator, you can install a refrigerator lock. Again, you’ll need one for adults, not for a child. It will need to be heavy duty to withstand an adult's strength.

The oven and stove can prove to be the greatest threat to your loved one with dementia, and the rest of your family. Leaving stove top burners on can lead to severe burns, fires, and smoke inhalation. There are easy fixes to help you and your loved ones stay safe. All the knobs on the stovetop should be removed and placed in a drawer, or try safety knob covers.

If your home has an electric oven or stove, a helpful product is the "Automatic Stove/Oven Control." This device allows you to set your stove/oven to only be used during certain times of the day, and to turn off when no one is in the kitchen. It has a counter-top motion detector to monitor when people are in the kitchen. It will turn the oven/stove off 5, 10, 15 minutes (however you choose to program it) after the room is empty. If you are the one cooking and it is safe to leave the kitchen unattended, you can push an "override" button.

Realize that your loved one's condition may cause him or her to forget how to use an appliance. This can cause your loved one frustration and present hazardous situations. Small appliances can cause hazards when used improperly. Unplug the toaster, coffee maker, and toaster oven when not in use. Or better still, remove them from the kitchen countertop. Consider disconnecting the garbage disposal or disguise the disposal’s switch.

As your family member's disease progresses, you'll need to reassess the safety needs.

Resources: Alzheimer’s Store, and Alzheimer's Association