With running water, gas and electric appliances in the kitchen, our practical advice will help you to make it as safe and easy to use as possible.
In this article you can find out more about various aspects of kitchen safety, including:
1. Monitors and alarms
4. Food storage and safety
6. Moving food between rooms
Monitors and alarms
There is a range of monitors available for detecting different risks within the kitchen and other areas of the home. As well as smoke detectors, which should be fitted in all homes, there are other detectors particularly relevant to the kitchen for gas, carbon monoxide and preventing fires and floods.
Cooking and washing up can fill the room with heat and condensation, so good ventilation is a must. Ensure that all windows are easy to open and can be easily reached. A window pull (also known as a long-handled window reacher) can help open and close hard-to-reach windows. If the kitchen doesn't already have an extractor fan, find out if it's feasible to have one installed.
Check that the kitchen taps are well maintained and don't require a high degree of strength to turn on and off. Fix dripping taps as soon as possible as, left unattended, the fault could quickly get worse. If your relative has trouble turning the taps, they may find the following products helpful.
- Tap turners: these devices usually have a handle at one end and a ‘head’ at the other that fits over a tap head to give the user more leverage. There is a range of turners available to suit different types of tap, from crosshead tap turners to a universal fitting.
- Lever taps are often much easier to use than taps that need to be turned or twisted. They can be fitted to most sinks in place of the existing taps. Some lever-tap systems have only a single tap, instead of two separate hot and cold taps. If choosing these, ensure that they are simple to use. In particular, it’s important that the hot and cold settings are easy to see and select.
Food storage and safety
If your relative is becoming confused or forgetful, their food storage can become neglected. You may find that certain types of food aren’t where they should be - not in a fridge, for example - and that food is out of date. Checking the fridge and freezer is something you might want to build into your visits, or to ensure that other carers are keeping an eye on.
If your relative is finding their kettle heavy to lift and tip, consider replacing it - see our page on preparing hot drinks.
Consider moving the kettle nearer to the sink and/or fridge, if this will reduce the amount of walking your relative will need to do while carrying a filled kettle. Also think about positioning the coffee, tea and sugar near to the kettle.
Moving food between rooms
Some older people use a trolley to help with moving food and drinks from the kitchen to another room. If your relative likes to do this or is thinking of buying a trolley, ensure that:
- they have the appropriate level of mobility to use the trolley
- there are no thresholds that pose a barrier, such as in the doorway between the kitchen and living room
- there are no rugs or loose carpets that could stop the trolley moving
- there is enough room to use the trolley, particularly when turning around.
Trolleys are not normally safe to use as a walking aid as they have four castors. If your relative is using a trolley for support, think about buying a trolley with in-built brakes instead.
If your relative uses a walking frame, find out if it's possible and appropriate to fit a tray onto this instead of using a trolley. Trays (also known as caddies) can only be fitted to rollators (walking frames with wheels) not to a standard walking frame, which has to be lifted.
If you're unsure on any of the above points, or need further information, consult an occupational therapist.
- Safety in the bathroom: if mobility is becoming an issue, bathroom safety might also be something to consider.
- Choosing and buying home care products: find out where to buy home care products to help an older person stay independent.
- Home alterations: changes you can make to your relative's home to make it safer and more comfortable to live in.
Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: November 2018