Aging creates so many "new normals." Even routine activities such as cooking may become challenging for your loved one. Balance issues can make reaching, bending, or lifting a problem. Arthritis often makes it difficult to maneuver pans and tools, turn on a faucet, or twist off lids. Extreme fatigue may sap overall motivation. And problems with memory increase the risk of a kitchen fire.
Consider these revisions to create an age-friendly kitchen.
Stoves. Choose a stove with continuous grates (for gas) or a flat surface so that pots can be moved off the burner without lifting. And look for stove controls that face the front so your loved one is not reaching over hot pots to change settings. If memory is a concern, add an automatic stove shut-off sensor. (If there is no movement around the stove for 15 minutes or so, the device shuts off all burners.)
Microwaves. Countertop rather than overhead placement makes access safe and easy.
Sinks and faucets. Install a single-handle faucet to make it easier for those with arthritis. You might even consider a faucet with sensors at its base to turn the water on and off. If possible, position a sink with a hose sprayer near the cooking area so a pot can be filled in place on the stove with no need for lifting.
Cabinets. Place frequently used items and heavy items within comfortable reach to reduce bending. Install lazy susans and pullout shelving for easier access. Use "loop" pulls or long "D-shaped" handles rather than knobs for cabinet doors.
Countertops. Include lighting under cabinets to compensate for shadows cast by overhead fixtures. Create countertops at several heights with knee space underneath to permit use as a seated workstation if need be.
Freezer/refrigerator. Look for a side-by-side model rather than top-and-bottom. Include pullout drawers and shelves to minimize reaching and bending.
Does a remodel seem in order?
If the person you care for wants to continue living independently, a kitchen remodel might be a wise choice. As the North Shore and Chicago experts in family caregiving, we at Options for Aging have seen that sometimes even simple changes or rearrangements can make a world of difference. If you follow principles of "universal design," the layout will be easier for everyone, not just a person with physical challenges. Give us a call at 847-868-1445 to discuss a home assessment.