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Having the right kitchen appliances is an important part of how comfortable your relative feels in the kitchen. We talk you through the small adjustments that can make a big difference. 

On this page you can find information on:

1. Using the oven or hob
2. Choosing a new cooker 
3. Microwave ovens
4. Choosing a new fridge freezer
5. Choosing a dishwasher

Using the oven or hob

If your relative is having difficulty using the cooker, maybe because of impaired vision or reduced strength or dexterity in their fingers, there are a couple of products you can add to the cooker that can be helpful.

Bumpons

These are self-adhesive raised dots, available from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). You can attach them next to the oven or hob settings that are used most frequently. Use them on other appliances, too, such as the microwave, dishwasher and washing machine.

Knob turners

Knobs can become difficult to turn if they are small or stiff, or if they require more than one type of action, such as pushing and turning at the same time. Knob turners that provide a large handle to grip are simple products that help to give extra leverage.

Lifting food into the oven and on to the hob

If your relative can still use their oven and hob but they’re starting to have trouble lifting food in or out of it, there are a couple of changes you can make to make cooking as safe as possible.

If carrying heavier items is an issue, you can get a trolley to move hot pans from the stove, and dishes from the oven, to the work surface or kitchen table. There’s also a range of double-handled saucepans that are safer to lift than traditional pans, as your relative can use both hands.

Choosing a new cooker

Sometimes, if your relative is having difficulty using their cooker, perhaps because the oven is too low or the hob too high, it may be worth buying a new one. To make sure the new appliance is as suitable as possible, make sure you look for the following in the new oven:

  • a large visual display, positioned where it can be read with ease
  • colour-contrasted controls, such as a white unit with brown or black controls
  • large controls that are easy to use and easy to reach, preferably at the front so your relative doesn't have to reach over the hob
  • controls that don't get hot when the hob or oven is being used
  • for a gas oven, automatic ignition for the hobs and oven. They also tend to have a safely feature with a gas cut-off if the hob unit is not ignited
  • an in-built oven timer; if your relative doesn't hear well, check this is suitably loud and at a frequency/pitch that can be heard.

Alternatives to traditional ovens

Your relative may find it difficult to bend down to get to the oven. If that’s the case, consider installing a separate oven at a height where they can easily see what’s inside, and can place dishes on an oven shelf that’s level with a work surface. A pull-out shelf under the oven can make a useful temporary resting place for hot dishes.

Another option is a mini oven. These are small, standalone ovens that can sit on a kitchen work surface, preventing the need to bend low to lift hot, and potentially heavy, cookware. However, they obviously have a more limited capacity than a traditional oven.

If your relative has dementia, think carefully before replacing a piece of kitchen equipment. Learning something new can be difficult, so your relative may not actually benefit from a simpler oven or cooker.

Microwave ovens

Microwave ovens are sometimes considered to be a poor substitute for conventional ovens. It’s true that they aren’t as versatile, but for certain tasks a microwave can be very useful. They can cook or heat food more quickly, and are therefore more energy efficient as well as being small and compact.

If your relative hasn’t used a microwave before, they might find the thought of using one quite daunting. Discuss the idea with them, to see if it’s something they feel happy and confident about introducing to their kitchen.

If your relative does decide to buy a microwave, consider looking for:

  • a model that's simple and straightforward to use – it's unlikely your relative will need one with a great variety of settings or additional features
  • clear, large display panels
  • tactile controls, available on some models. Just as with conventional ovens, you can place raised dots (bumpons) near microwave controls
  • a microwave with a built-in sensor to automatically adjust the cooking time.

Talking ovens and microwaves

Some mini ovens or microwaves have a ‘talking’ feature, useful for people who are partially sighted. Among other things, they advise the user to ‘stir food’, ‘allow food to cool’ or ‘close door’. For more information, see the Living Made Easy website and the Which? guide to easy-to-use-microwaves.

Choosing a new fridge-freezer

Models with the fridge at the top are best, as these require less bending since fridges tend to be used more frequently than freezers.

Choosing a dishwasher

Washing up sometimes requires a significant amount of time and energy. If space allows, consider installing a dishwasher. The best ones not only save time and effort, but can be more efficient in terms of hot water and energy use. 

Several manufacturers now produce compact dishwashers, some of which are approximately half the size of standard models and ideal in kitchens where space is limited.

Some other dishwasher features to bear in mind include:

  • buttons for controls rather than electronic touch pads, which are more fiddly to use
  • buttons raised from, rather than flush to, the surface might be easier to deal with
  • anti-flood devices that stop a dishwasher from filling further if there is water in its base.

More information

Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: November 2018