The good news about making a kitchen safer for elderly people is that most of the changes are simple and inexpensive. There’s not much to buy.
The bad news is that some of the changes involve changing habits, which is always hard. And the ones that are expensive are really expensive (think new stove).
The biggest risk area, in my opinion, is the stove. How safe this is for an elderly person to operate depends a lot on their cognitive and functional abilities. So that’s an area where you, as the caregiver, will need to put in a lot of thought.
Here are a few factors to consider around the stove:
- If you have a gas range, make sure the pilot lights are equipped with an automatic cutoff in case the flame fails. Your local utility service should be able to help with this. If you don’t have this safety system, a gas leak could cause a fire or death.
- Clear the area around the stove so nothing flammable can fall onto it. Sometimes people have window curtains hanging near the stove, or bottles of cooking oil on a shelf behind it.
- Make sure the exhaust hood filters are clean. Buy new ones if necessary. Grease builds up here and can contribute to a fire.
- Make sure your oven controls are clearly marked. A lot of knobs are confusingly placed, even for younger folks. I’ve known people who put arrows made of electrical tape pointing from a knob toward the burner it controls. Or write “Back” or “Front” next to a knob if the picture or placement is confusing.
- If the knobs are on the back of the oven, this can be a problem because you have to reach over hot pots to make changes. This can increase the chance that someone will knock over a pot of boiling water or a hot pan with food or oil in it.
- Get in the habit of turning pot handles toward the inside of the stove. This prevents things from being knocked over so easily.
- Keep hot pads near the stove, and easily accessible.
- Use the exhaust hood. This prevents smoke buildup in the house.
You can buy stove knob covers at Amazon. They’re usually in the baby section.