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Kitchen Safety for Older People

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 20 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Retirement Kitchen Safety Wheeled

The kitchen can be one of the most dangerous places in the house. Between appliances and sink, it has the potential for the most accidents. But being aware of the possibilities and taking steps to reduce the dangers can keep the kitchen safe.

Sink Area

Perhaps one of the most important things is to put a non-slip, water-absorbent mat on the floor by the sink to soak up any spills. If you have a linoleum floor, use a non-slip wax when you clean it. Ceramic tiles look good, but can be very tiring on the feet.

Dishwashers are the most hygienic way of cleaning thoroughly, but if you don't have one, then make sure that you wash up carefully, using sponges or brushes that are replaced regularly and washed well every week to cut down on possible bacteria (use an anti-bacterial dishwashing liquid). Launder tea towels very frequently. Use rubber gloves and have the water as hot as you can stand it.

Turning the taps is something that can become harder as time goes by. The ideal solution is to have them replaced with levers, or buy lever adapters that fit over the taps.

Stove

Unsurprisingly, most house fires start in the kitchen - all you need to do is think of the many incidents involving chip pans, for example. Be prepared for the worst; every kitchen should have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket to hand for emergencies. Failing these, a damp tea-towel or a bucket of sand can be used to smother a small fire by cutting off the oxygen. Never throw water onto burning fat or oil, or on fires started by an electrical appliance.

Never leave pans unattended on the hob. If the phone or the doorbell rings whilst you're cooking, turn off the burners before leaving the kitchen. Use a timer when cooking food to make sure you don't forget it. Turning controls on the cooker may be difficult: a contour turner fits most controls and gives a chunky handle to turn.

If you cook with gas, make sure that your hob top has a flame failure device which cuts off the supply of gas if the flame goes out.

Draining boiling water from heavy saucepans is dangerous for everyone. When you're older, the weight can be an additional hurdle. You're much better off cooking vegetables in a wire basket that fits inside the saucepan, so you have only to lift this out when they finish cooking. If you prefer, try a steamer basket that sits on top of a pan of boiling water. It cooks the vegetables without contact with the water, helping to preserve the nutrients and the flavour.

Using saucepans with glass lids allows you to seek how things are cooking without having to raise the lid and risk being scalded by the steam. You should also have a clear, heat-resistant surface right next to both oven and hob. That way you can put hot dishes down immediately without having to carry them.

General

Keep a perching stool in the kitchen. You can sit on it to work and take the weight off your feet, but first make sure it's a comfortable height for using with your counters. If you need to get something from a high cupboard, use a sturdy stepladder. You can buy stools that double as stepladders. However, when you use it as a stepladder, make sure it's properly extended, and all the feet are steady on the ground. Never climb on a regular chair to reach something from a high surface. If you're concerned about climbing, use an extendable arm "grabber" to reach for things.

Arrange your storage so that you can reach items you use regularly without straining. Store heavy items lower down; lightweight glasses and plates at higher level, but still readily accessible.

Use a chopping board with a raised border to hold the item you are slicing. It's much safer - and actually more convenient.

There are many implements available to make opening jars easier. It saves aching wear on the hand and wrist - and a lot of frustration. Similarly, there are can openers available to make the job easier, or consider an electric can opener.

Never leave electrical cords trailing along the floor or work surface. The best solution is to have things organised so that appliances are close to a socket. If you need a flex, use the curly type. Don't overload your electric sockets - have double ones fitted if you don't have enough.

Be sure you know where to turn off the electricity, gas and water supplies in emergency. Keep the path to reach them clear of obstacles.

For taking food or even cups of tea from the kitchen (and back in) use a wheeled trolley with the handle at waist height. Not only does it offer a level surface for your items, it gives extra support as you walk.

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