A kitchen is often the central gathering place in the home. Family dinners, special occasions and time shared together all happen in the heart of the home. Making sure the kitchen a safe, happy place is important. On a daily basis, many of us spend time in our kitchens, and it is easy to forget that the kitchen can be a place where dangerous accidents are not uncommon – especially for seniors.
When it comes to senior adults and kitchen safety, the numbers show where potential issues can occur:
- The National Fire Protection Association reports that three (3) in ten (10) home fires start in the kitchen, more than any other room in the house.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year, including 5,000 fatal cases. Older adults, due to a natural decrease in their immune systems, can succumb to food poisoning more easily and have a harder time fighting it off if they do.
- Kitchens are also areas with high fall-risk areas: items stored out of reach, slippery floors, and the likelihood that meals are carried to eat in another room.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that people over the age of 65 have a 2.7 times greater risk of dying in a kitchen fire than the general population.
For those that want to ensure that the kitchen is as safe as possible for their senior loved ones, there are three key areas to consider:
- Fire prevention and safety – The primary cause of kitchen fires is unattended food – seniors should never leave the kitchen when food is cooking. Automatic shut-off devices are a great tool to help seniors that have memory issues but like to spend time cooking. Loose clothing, kitchen towels and potholders can all catch fire if too close to the stove, so it is good to be mindful about fabric near flames. And, on a regular basis, a qualified electrician should check wiring and outlets to ensure safety compliance – this is a common cause of fires in older homes.
- Foodborne illness prevention – Because of the ways our bodies change when we get older, foodborne illness can become a much more serious issue. This can be prevented by properly storing food, checking fridge temperatures often, properly reheating food, cleaning old items out of the fridge and pantry often and checking expiration dates.
- Reduce fall risks – When seniors need to reach an item, whether stored too high or too low, it can cause a balance issue that may lead to a fall. Keeping cooking items within reach is critical. Clutter on counters should be removed, bright lights are helpful, and the heaviest objects should be stored at waist level. Water is often a problem in the kitchen – possible issues include spilled water from the sink, leaking refrigerators and pipe leaks. Spilled water can make kitchen floors slippery, so adding mats and checking water sources often is important.
The kitchen can be a joyful place in the home, with intentional action to minimize the risk of accident or illness. Being safe in the kitchen is not just common sense – and revisiting safety tips for the kitchen is never a waste of time.
Comfort Keepers® can help. About one-quarter of Americans over age 65 need help with everyday activities such as eating, cooking, and getting in and out of bed or a chair. Our trained caregivers can help with these and other tasks, while engaging clients in activities that improve quality of life. They can also provide support for physician approved diet and exercise plans, provide transportation to appointments and community events and can assess a home for safety issues and reducing fall hazards. For more information on how we can help, contact your nearest Comfort Keepers® office today.
Food and Drug Administration. “Food Safety for Older Adults.” Web. 2011.
Aging Care “Kitchen Fires: Make Cooking Safer for Seniors” Web. 2012.
The National Fire Protection Association. “Serve Up Safety in the Kitchen.” Web. 2020.
U.S. Fire Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Fire Safety for Seniors.” Web. 2020.
Caring.com. “Making the Kitchen Safe and Convenient for Seniors.” Web.