Using Your Kitchen Safely for Cooking Independently
Posted on November 23rd, 2015
The kitchen often is the hub of the home. It's where family and friends gather for good food and great company. Seniors living at home can still enjoy baking and cooking their favorite meals even when living with various physical challenges. There are multiple modifications that can be incorporated into any existing kitchen to help seniors with limited mobility keep cooking safely and in comfort.
Safe and Comfortable Prep Area
Creating a safe and comfortable food preparation area is essential for any senior who enjoys cooking independently. A space to sit while preparing food reduces fatigue and helps improve overall safety in kitchen. There should be easy access to appliances that are used frequently and knives should be stored within easy reach with blade covers to prevent cuts. Place a non-slip mat on the counter or table used for food prep to keep cutting boards and bowls from slipping.
ADA grab bars can make a kitchen safer and easier to use. Grab bars can be fitted into existing kitchen space, placed near the sitting food preparation area or sink to offer extra safety and stability when needed. Because each person's needs are unique, the placement of the grab bars may vary by home.
Accessing What is Needed
Seniors and others with limited mobility as well as anyone who may be slightly shorter in stature than the average person can have difficulty reaching items at the back of a shelf or reaching for that box of cereal on the pantry's top shelf. This is where a reacher or grabber tool comes in handy. Look for a reacher tool with a sturdy, easy-to-grip handle and pinchers that open and close smoothly. A reacher made from aluminum will be lightweight and easier to use but may not have the strength to pick up heavier objects like books or cans. Some reachers have magnets for picking up lightweight metal items like paperclips.
Retrofitting Existing Space for a Wheelchair
To accommodate an average wheelchair in a kitchen there needs to be at least a 40-inch clearance between the cabinet fronts and opposing countertop edges. A general contractor can remove a base cabinet to create a cut-out space that would make it easy for a wheelchair to roll up to the countertop or sink instead of having to sit parallel to the counter.
"If sink doors are removed, insulate the hot water pipes to prevent leg burns" cautions the Colorado State University Extension Office.
Most existing cabinetry can accommodate slide-out shelves for easier to access everyday items like dishes, pots and food storage containers. Slide-out shelves can be added to upper cabinets as well as lower ones. Slide-outs can be found to match the wood, color and style of your existing cabinets or you may opt for something different like basket-style slide-outs in stainless steel. The basket-style work well for holding pantry items like cans of soup, dry good boxes and even spices.
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