Ask the Alzheimer’s Expert – How Can I Keep Mom Safe in the Kitchen?
Question – My mother insists on trying to cook and has already started a grease fire. How can I keep her safe?
Answer: The kitchen is a dangerous place for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Consider preparing meals together so that you can supervise your mom while giving her time to do something she still enjoys. If your mom is left alone in the house, here are some suggestions to keep the kitchen a safer place:
- Remove spices or medicines from the counter tops and keep cleaning supplies in a locked place.
- Remove scissors and knives from counter tops and drawers. A person with Alzheimer’s may hurt himself or others with these dangerous items.
- Remove all items that cause confusion.
- Disguise the garbage disposal switches.
- Put all the garbage out of sight.
- Put labels on the cabinets.
- Install a shut-off valve (for a gas stove) or a circuit breaker for an electric stove so you can disable it when you leave the kitchen.
- Remove burner knobs and tape the stems or install knob covers.
- Use a lock-out switch on the electric range so it can’t be turned on except by you.
- Use an aluminum cover over the top of the stove, or use burner covers.
- Replace the pilot on a gas stove with an electric starter.
- Lock the oven door.
- Use safety latches on doors and cabinets.
- Install gates, door, or dutch doors so the kitchen can be closed off but you can still see and be seen.
- Install an automatic turn-off on the faucet.
- Install a governor on the hot water faucet (or turn down the valve under the sink) to control the amount of water that can be used.
- For a faucet spout that swings outside the sink itself, install a brace that keeps water in the sink at all times.
- Hide or get rid of dangerous small appliances.
- Turn off appliances by unplugging them, turning off circuit breakers, or removing fuses. • Install smoke detectors (but not near the stove).
- Use an electric teakettle that has an automatic shutoff.
- Use a single-lever faucet that can balance water temperature.
- Provide an area away from the knife drawer and the stove where the person in your care can help prepare food.
- Ask the gas company to modify your stove to provide a gas odor that is strong enough to alert you if the pilot light goes out.
- Provide a step stool, never a chair, to reach high shelves.