With running water, gas and electric appliances in the kitchen, it is essential that every care is taken to make it as safe and easy to use as possible.
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, extreme temperatures and flooding.
The charity Trent Dementia has produced an overview of these monitors on their website. This information is applicable to everyone, not only people with dementia.
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 does not already have an extractor fan, find out if it is feasible to have one installed.
Check that the kitchen taps are well maintained and do not 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:
These devices usually have a handle at one end and a ‘head’ at the other, which fits over a tap head to give the user more leverage. There is a range of turners available to suit different types of tap, ranging from crosshead tap turners to a universal fitting.
Levers 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 You may find that certain types of food aren’t where they should be - not in a fridge, for example - and that food is out of date.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 that you might want to build into your visits, or to ensure that other carers are keeping an eye on.
Always take care with kettles, especially if your relative is finding theirs heavy to lift and tip. 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.
If your relative uses a walking frame, find out if it is possible and appropriate to fit a tray onto this instead of using a trolley.
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, consider purchasing a trolley with in-built brakes instead.
If you are unsure on any of the above points, or need further information, consult an occupational therapist.
Page last reviewed: March 2015
Next review due: November 2016