People of any age can get scalded by hot water or steam in the kitchen, but seniors are at an even greater risk. Affected by reduced mobility, poor vision and other age-related health problems, seniors aged 70 and over are more likely to suffer a serious scald that requires hospitalisation. Thankfully, there are many ways to reduce this risk of scalding. One of the best methods is to use daily living aids, which help make the kitchen a safer place without reducing a senior's independence.
If you're a professional carer, a concerned family member or a senior citizen yourself, take a look at these 3 common causes of kitchen scalds and the living aids that can help to prevent them.
Pouring Hot Drinks
One common way seniors get burned in the kitchen is by spilling hot drinks when pouring or drinking them. Making tea, coffee or hot chocolate is an important part of many Australians' daily routines, but as the body ages, it becomes harder to perform this simple task safely. Many seniors find it difficult to hold a full and heavy kettle, fill a mug without spillage and keep a firm grip while drinking. Luckily, there are daily living aids on the market that can address these problems.
Seniors who have diminished eyesight will benefit from a liquid level indicator. This is a small device that sits on the edge of a mug and beeps or vibrates when the mug is full, ensuring that no hot liquid spills out. If the act of pouring itself is the problem, a kettle tipper can help. Kettle tippers are metal or plastic frames that hold the kettle while its pouring, making it easy for seniors with arthritis or poor hand strength to safely fill a mug. Finally, using mugs with two handles or a spouted top can help seniors avoid spilling tea or coffee on themselves while drinking.
Carrying Cooked Food
Drinks aren't the only thing that can cause scalds if spilled—food can too. From freshly made gravy to steaming hot vegetables, a cooked meal can scald seniors all too easily. Holding a plate of food and carrying it across a room or through a house requires a surprising amount of hand strength and coordination, which is why it can be difficult for seniors with mobility problems. If you or a senior you know struggles to carry their meals, they could benefit from daily living aids.
Those with only slightly diminished mobility can use special handles that clip onto plates. These handles give the user better control while walking and help keep the hot plate well away from the hands and body. High-sided dishes may also be useful, preventing food from sloshing or spilling over the edge for seniors who sometimes get unsteady on their feet. For moderate mobility problems, a handled tray comes in handy. They can be carried with one hand or two depending on a senior's specific ability, and they also double up as a way to keep food steady on your lap. Seniors who have more severe difficulty getting around may need a more secure solution than any of the tools mentioned above. In this case, a wheeled kitchen trolley (which is similar to a walking frame, but equipped with a flat surface) is the most stable way to get food from one place to another.
Spilling Pan Contents
Unsurprisingly, cooking is one of the biggest hazards for seniors in the kitchen. This is especially true when it comes to cooking with a pan on a stove. Pots and pans filled with boiling water or sizzling oil can be heavy and difficult to manoeuvre for ageing hands. Seniors who are prone to leg pain and weakness may also find it difficult to avoid stove spillages after standing in the kitchen for too long. Thankfully, cooking is another area where daily living aids can reduce the risk of scalds.
If standing while cooking is the biggest issue, invest in a perch stool to sit on. The best stools can be adjusted and tilted to various heights and angles so they fit beside counters and ovens. For seniors who can stand unaided but have issues handling a full pan, there are two main devices that can help: cooking baskets and pan holders. Cooking baskets are like sieves that slot into pans while they're on the stove. With a cooking basket, there's no need to carry a full pan over to the sink. Just put it in the pan before cooking, then lift it--and the contents of the pan--out so the food can be plated. Pan holders, on the other hand, clip or suction onto the oven top and keep pans still on the stove while cooking. They're especially useful for seniors who only have good use of one hand, steadying the pot while stirring.