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How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen

by Richard Bitner
How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen

The bathroom is typically the most dangerous room in the home for elderly adults, but the kitchen isn’t far behind. Every year, thousands of American seniors suffer injuries in their kitchens. Some of those injuries are minor, like small cuts to fingers, but many of these injuries are serious or life-threatening. As family caregivers, we can help reduce these risks by designing safer kitchens for seniors. How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen
How can you make the kitchen safer for your elderly mom, dad, or grandparent? Here are four key areas where smart kitchen design can reduce the risk of injury to elderly adults and make the kitchen more senior-friendly.

Non-Slip Flooring

One of the biggest injury risks for elderly adults is slippery flooring. Falls are the number one cause of accidental death among elderly adults, and low-traction flooring increases the risk of slips and trips. Unfortunately, many kitchens contain low-traction flooring, such as marble, granite, laminate, and certain types of vinyl and tile flooring. While easy to clean and visually attractive, these styles of flooring significantly increase the chance of accidents and injuries in the kitchen.
Changing floors to a less slippery option will make the kitchen safer for elderly adults, but not everyone has the funds for a costly re-flooring project. In that case, you may want to look for non-slip decals that can be applied to the floors. Another alternative is for family caregivers to buy rubber-soled slippers, indoor shoes, or non-slip socks for your loved one to wear any time they are in the kitchen.

Visibility & Lighting

Poor visibility is another risk factor for falls and accidents in the kitchen. That’s especially true for elderly adults, who suffer from poor eyesight at a higher rate than younger adults. Safe kitchen design for seniors requires family caregivers install adequate lighting to prevent mishaps and injuries.
When assessing lighting in the kitchen, remember to inspect all areas, including nooks, crannies, and out-of-the-way areas. If you’re able to re-light the kitchen, consider recessed lighting, which cuts down on shadows and glare, and under-cabinet lighting, which ensures that all countertop areas are visible.
Beyond lighting, the color scheme of the kitchen can also have an impact on its safety for elderly adults. A high-contrast color scheme is one of the best ways to help seniors with poor eyesight avoid accidents in the kitchen. In particular, having counters that contrast with their surroundings will make navigating the kitchen easier for seniors with vision problems.

Ease of Access

How easy is it for your loved one to access important items in the kitchen? Ideally, your loved one will be able to access everything he or she needs for most meals without having to bend, kneel, or stretch. These actions often put seniors in vulnerable, off-balance positions that increase their risk of falls.
If key items are out of immediate reach, it is a good idea to reorganize the kitchen storage in a way that prioritizes ease of access. Modern cabinet and drawer systems can be installed to make lower items easier to reach. Place the least-used items on higher shelves. These items should only be accessed by step ladder or, if a step ladder is unsafe for your loved one to use on their own, with the help of a family caregiver.

Accident Prevention & Preparedness

A senior-friendly kitchen should be modified to prevent some of the most serious and common actions that occur in kitchens. Family caregivers should also equip kitchens so that when accidents occur, seniors and caregivers can respond as quickly as possible.
Here are a few specific steps family caregivers can take to prevent and prepare for accidents in the kitchen.

  • Install a quality smoke detector in the kitchen and perform regular testing to ensure that it is functioning properly.
  • Do not store hazardous materials in any container that could be mistaken for holding something else, particularly by those with poor eyesight.
  • Inspect all wires to make sure that they are in good condition, away from water, and cannot be tripped over.
  • Lower the heat setting on the hot water heater to prevent the possibility of scalding or burns by hot water.
  • Keep a fully stocked, easily accessible first aid kit in the kitchen.
  • Post emergency numbers next to the phone, including the local numbers for emergency services, family doctors, and poison control.

Family Caregivers & Kitchen Safety

Senior-proofing the kitchen can be a time- and cost-intensive project, but it’s one that’s more than worthwhile when caring for an elderly loved one. But remember that senior safety doesn’t stop with senior-friendly kitchen design. Senior safety in the kitchen also depends on a strong support system from both family and professional caregivers.
Caregivers play a key role in elderly safety in the kitchen. Having a caregiver nearby means that seniors can ask for a helping hand when needed. It also means that if an emergency occurs, someone is there to quickly take action. Perhaps most important, having a caregiver also means that seniors can spend less time in the kitchen to begin with. Caregivers can put groceries away, prepare meals, and perform other kitchen tasks that might put seniors’ safety at risk.
A family member, friend, or care professional can fill the role of a caregiver. If you’re concerned about an elderly loved one’s safety in the kitchen and feel they need a caregiver with them more often, we encourage you to contact your local Visiting Angels® caregiver agency. Your local Visiting Angels office will be more than happy to discuss your options for caregiver services and coordinate a free in-home consultation for your loved one.
How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen
How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen How Family Caregivers Can Design a Senior-Friendly Kitchen

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