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tips for caregivers: Cooking

As our loved ones age, the possibility of accidents happening in the kitchen goes up dramatically. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, people over the age of 65 have a 2.5 times greater risk of dying in a kitchen fire than the general population. Our loved ones are much more prone to falling when trying to reach something on the top shelf, and more susceptible to food borne illnesses that can be fatal from improperly stored food. Consider these tips when helping your loved one cook:

  1. Make sure your loved one never leaves food unattended while cooking. Consider buying them an automatic shut-off device so that if they do forget to turn something off, you have peace of mind.

  2. Many things in the kitchen can be fire hazards. Your loved one should not wear loose clothing when cooking, keep towels and potholders far away from hot surfaces and clean up the stove immediately so that oil and fat don't build up on the surface.

  3. Prevent falls in the kitchen by making sure your loved one's kitchen isn't cluttered, install bright lights, encourage them not to use the high cabinet, store heavy objects at waist level and check the refrigerator for leaking water.

  4. Make sure your loved one doesn't get a foodborne illness by ensuring meats and vegetables are stored in sealed containers. Check the temperature of their fridge routinely; cold food should be kept at no less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and reheated food should be no less than 165 degrees. Be sure your loved one returns their left overs to the fridge immediately after a meal. When in doubt, throw it out!

  5. If your loved one has dementia, it may be time to intervene with their cooking habits. Lock up sharp objects and knives, label everything and post reminder signs, use timers and pre-cooked foods to help your loved one remain as independent as they can. However, the time will come when it is no longer safe for you loved one to cook on their own. When that time comes, consider bringing meals over for them or start using one of the many different home-delivered meal options.

  6. There are many cooking aids made specifically for seniors. Some options for your loved one are: wide-handled utensils with non-slip grips, one-handed cutting and preparation boards, pot stabilizers and arthritic friendly bottle openers.

    A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.