Kitchen Fire Safety Tips for Aging Parents

May 20, 2013
Aging parents cooking

Aging parents who enjoy cooking need kitchens that are appropriately fire-safe.

Some 30-45% of home fires start in the kitchen, which is not surprising given the easy availability of flame on many stove tops. Keeping a kitchen as fireproofed as possible is always a good idea, but it’s even more important if you have aging parents or spouses who enjoy cooking.

Tips on how to make your kitchen safe for older chefs:

  1. Monitor kitchen use. If your aging parents suffer from memory loss, you may need to be a “helicopter child” and hover around if they choose to cook. If they walk away from the stove and leave an open flame burning, gently call it to their attention or turn it off yourself. If food on the stove starts to catch fire, quickly turn off the burner and use a pot lid to cover the pot and extinguish the flame.
  2. Make sure Mom or Dad is dressed appropriately. We’re not talking about fashion here; we’re talking about safety. Many aging parents and spouses like to feel comfy around the house and wear very loose clothing: bulky sweaters with long, floppy sleeves and a roomy robes that hangs open are popular choices. This kind of clothing can be dangerous around an open flame. For cooking purposes, encourage your loved ones to wear things that are a bit snugger and that have shorter sleeves that can’t fall into flame.
  3. Watch where the handles point. Pot handles that hang out away from the stove are easy to bump. You don’t want a pot of boiling hot water spilling over Mom or grease to jumping out of a pan and into the fire beneath the pan.
  4. Keep it clean and clear. Stoves, ovens, toasters, and other appliances should be cleaned frequently to keep grease, oil, and crumbs from building up and becoming potential fire hazards. You should also keep the areas near these appliances as clean and as clear of clutter as possible. Having too many cans, bottles of seasonings, extra pots, and plates near the cooking area can increase the chances of an accident. Remember to keep flammable items, such as aerosol cooking sprays, away from the stove and oven.
  5. Don’t forget the floor. If your kitchen floor is slippery or is covered with rugs that slide, there’s a greater chance that your senior loved one may fall. A fall can be dangerous at any time, but it can be especially so if it results in knocking a greasy pan over on the stove top or otherwise creating a potential fire situation.
  6. Know how to put out a fire. Water is not always the best extinguisher for a kitchen fire and should NOT be used if the fire is grease or electrically based. Smothering is preferred; if the fire is small and contained, covering it with a pot lid may do the trick. Baking soda is also good for smothering, so keep a box or two nearby. Avoid using fire extinguishers that are water-based; try to keep dry chemical fire extinguishers in the kitchen area instead.
  7. Check your alarm. Every kitchen area needs a smoke detector. Make sure yours has one, and make sure that it functions properly.

Cooking can be a great joy for many elderly individuals and for the lucky ones who get to eat the products of their culinary efforts. Take steps to keep your older chefs safe in the kitchen so that they can continue to enjoy this activity.


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Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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