6 Tips to Help a Loved One Cook Safely
As we 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 older loved ones are much more prone to falling when trying to reach something on the top shelf, and are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses that can be fatal from improperly stored food. If we help our loved ones cook, there are many steps we can take to assure their safety in the kitchen.
1. We should make sure our loved ones never leave food unattended while cooking. We can consider buying them an automatic shut-off device so that if they do forget to turn something off, we have the peace of mind of knowing they will still be safe.
2. Many things in the kitchen can be fire hazards. Our loved ones should avoid wearing 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. We can help prevent falls in the kitchen by:
- Making sure our loved ones kitchens are kept uncluttered
- Installing bright lights
- Placing frequently used items in cabinets that are easy to reach
- Storing heavy objects at waist level
- Checking the refrigerator for leaking water
4. To prevent our loved ones from getting a food-borne illness, we should ensure meats and vegetables are stored in sealed containers. We should also check the temperature of the refrigerator routinely, keeping in mind that cold food should be kept at no less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and hot food should be reheated to above 140 degrees. We should also help our loved ones remember to return their leftovers to the refrigerator immediately after a meal. When in doubt, throw it out!
5. If a loved one has dementia, it may be time to intervene with their cooking habits. We should consider locking up sharp objects and knives, labeling food and kitchen items, posting reminder signs and using timers and pre-cooked foods to help our loved ones remain as independent as they can. However, the time may come when it is no longer safe for our loved ones to cook on their own. When that time comes, we can consider bringing meals over, or enrolling them in one of the many different home-delivered meal options.
6. There are many cooking aids made specifically for older adults that our loved ones may find helpful. Some options include:
- Wide-handled utensils with non-slip grips
- One-handed cutting and preparation boards
- Pot stabilizers
- Arthritic friendly bottle openers.
A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.