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How dangerous is a kitchen to a senior?

Loved ones of seniors want to promote the independence of their aging relatives whenever possible, such as finding New Mexico retirement communities that encourage them to use a kitchen to cook their own food. But kitchens can pose serious risks to seniors, particularly those who suffer cognitive impairments. Anyone who has an elderly loved one in a retirement community or a nursing home should first examine their senior's ability to handle a cooking environment.

As Comfort Keepers points out, ordinary kitchen operations that are safe for healthy adults may become hazardous where seniors are involved. If an electric cord to a kitchen appliance like a toaster or a blender is damaged or frayed, a senior needs to recognize it, but many seniors suffer from poor eyesight and may miss such hazards. Bad sight can also harm seniors if they try to cook, as improper use of a stove can cause a fire.

Kitchens are also hazards for falls. Food and grease may spill on the floor and refrigerators may sometimes leak water or liquids, which can pool on the ground and potentially rot the floor if it is made of wood. Low drawers can also force seniors to bend over to reach them, which can subject them to back pain or perhaps a fall if they are frail. Even high drawers or cabinets can be a problem, as reaching too high may cause a senior to lose balance.

Seniors suffering from dementia may be at even greater risk working in a kitchen. Knives and forks can be dangerous and cause injury, perhaps life threatening ones. Some kitchens also contain junk drawers that house small items like matches, rulers, tape, nails, washers and screws. A senior with dementia may actually end up eating some of these small items by mistake. You also cannot count on a senior with impaired cognition to remember basic safety tips such as not to microwave food cans.

If your loved one lives in a nursing home or other assisted facility, be sure to properly gauge how capable your senior is in handling kitchen duties. Some seniors may be able to handle limited cooking activities while others, unfortunately, are no longer able to perform any kitchen activities. Go over such concerns with the staff of your loved one’s residence and see how well they keep seniors from environments that can harm them.

This article is intended to educate readers on seniors and kitchen use, and is not written as legal advice.

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