Kitchens present considerable dangers, particularly for individuals with cognitive impairment or difficulty with mobility or balance. And people who live alone often eat less, or don’t eat nutritious food. So if you worry that your mom might forget to turn off the stove or that she might not notice a spill and will slip and injure herself, or you’re concerned that your dad’s diet lacks variety, you may be looking for solutions to keep your loved one safe at home while maintaining independence.
Fortunately, private care services can address many concerns about kitchen safety and nutritional needs. A home health aide can assist with:
- Food shopping, including putting groceries away. An aide can also accompany your loved one to the market so they can select ingredients.
- Prepare meals, including ones to heat in a microwave for later, reducing risk of injury, fire hazard, and fatigue. If your parent enjoys cooking, an aide can provide necessary supervision to ensure food is prepared safely.
- Clean up after meals. By making sure your loved one’s food preparation area is sanitary, aides can reduce the likelihood of foodborne illness.
- Find recipes that appeal to your loved one’s taste preferences and palate, and that meet any dietary requirements.
- Assist with feeding for those with manual dexterity or swallowing issues. Aides can ensure foods and beverages are served at safe temperatures, are in bite-sized pieces, and the appropriate consistency. An aide can also monitor changes in your loved one and alert you or a private care nurse that meal plans may need to be adapted.
- Provide companionship so your parent doesn’t have to eat alone. When meals are enjoyable, your loved one may eat more. An aide can encourage lingering at the table, rather than clearing plates before your parent has time to finish eating.
In addition, private care can also provide you with the services of a care manager or rehabilitation therapist, who can offer suggestions for home modifications and equipment tailored to your loved one’s needs. Specialized tools and techniques can minimize risks and address safety issues for times when your parent is alone.
Kitchen Safety Tips
To prevent slips and falls:
- Place water-absorbing floor mats with rubberized backs in front of the sink
- Be sure your loved one has a sturdy, stable stepladder with a handle for reaching high shelves
- Keep a stool in the prep area to prevent fatigue when standing
To prevent injuries:
- Use pots with a second helper handle, which are easier to lift and put less pressure on wrists
- Invest in tools that relieve stress on joints. Equipment with soft handles is easier for arthritic or aging hands to use.
- Make sure cutting boards and bowls have nonslip bottoms, so they don’t spin or slide on counters. (Damp dishcloths work, too.)
- Use a food processor or mini chopper instead of a knife
- Store heavy and commonly used items in the lower level of your cabinets
- Wear an apron with pockets to keep tools close at hand
- Fill large pots with water by setting the pot on the stove and using a glass measure to add water to it
To prevent fires:
- Be sure all appliances with heating elements, including toaster ovens and coffeemakers, have auto-shut off features
- Use a microwave as much as possible. Reduce the likelihood of spilling hot foods or liquids by setting the microwave on the counter rather than over the stove.
- Use an electric teakettle to boil water quickly and safely for oatmeal, couscous, and soup as well as for hot beverages
- Fire extinguishers can be tricky if you’re not familiar with them. Either practice and keep one next to the stove, or keep a box of baking soda near the stove to dump onto any flames.
- If you’re afraid your parent will forget the stove is on, look into motion sensors. If there’s no movement for a period of time, the stove automatically shuts off (some have additional sensors to detect gas leaks).