No matter the age of your senior loved one – as we get older we feel less and less inclined to spend hours preparing food in the kitchen.
Throughout their adult lives, they have loved preparing food for the family, especially for family gatherings.
When they cook for one or two with waning appetites, though, it becomes a lot less enjoyable.
Also as they age, seniors’ abilities can begin to diminish too not just their interest – they don’t want to stand for long, have difficulty with their vision, and may have pain in their joints or trembling that makes it harder to cook.
What happens as a result of this is that foods your senior loved one starts eating regularly are convenience, microwavable or cans of soup. Most of these choices are not nutritionally optimal.
How can family caregivers help seniors get better nutrition when they can’t (or simply don’t want to) spend time cooking?
Hacks or Modifications In the Kitchen
There are many things that caregivers can obtain for and demonstrate to senior loved ones to make everyday tasks in the kitchen a little easier to manage.
Sometimes seniors have a harder time preparing food because arthritis, a stroke or other conditions make mobility and function an obstacle to getting things done.
These suggestions for modifications to their environment, tools and techniques will help them get it done easier.
- Kitchen updates – levers on the faucet, easy to pull cabinet handles, pull down shelves
- Wide handle grips on the utensils and cookware to reduce painful grasp
- Special devices and adaptive equipment to make cooking easier, such as a microwave ring with handles to get hot things out of microwave, two handled cups, rocker knife, pot stabilizer to keep it from sliding, mixing bowl holder, easy vegetable peelers and brushes, cutting aid to hold knife, reacher to get things off shelves
- Large print cookbooks, recipes or measuring tools
- Put microwave on the counter for easy reach
- Task lighting for workspace
- Store potholders in view so that they can get them quickly and avoid burns
- Color code knife handles using paint or tape with bright colors to avoid picking up the sharp end
- Put a wet paper towel or cloth under the cutting board to prevent slipping
- Fill a pot with water on the stove using a measuring cup so your senior doesn’t have to lift the full pot of water and carry it to the stove; when food is boiled, remove it onto a plate and leave pot of water to cool before cleaning; always use pots with two handles
- Use plastic instead of glass where practical to avoid breakages and injury
- Place a wooden spoon over the top of the pot of boiling starchy food, such as pasta or beans, to avoid boiling over and creating a mess
- Use a melon baller to take the seeds out of peppers, tomatoes or cucumbers
- Use a pizza cutter to more easily cut up a variety of foods like pancakes, meats or fruit
- Use a rubber band around the lid of a jar to help open it more easily
- Find recipes for one pot meals to reduce cleanup, cook once eat twice using leftovers for next day
- Eat some meals using no cook prep recipes such as cottage cheese and fruit, meat sandwiches or salad with protein; accompany these items with a glass of milk or a smoothie and vegetables for a complete meal
- Try a universal turner that opens knobs and turns on oven switches (uni turner)
Prioritize hacks based on the needs and cooking habits of your senior loved one.
Kitchen Safety Tips
Your senior loved one may still be doing the cooking but may not be as safe as you would like.
Here are a few precautions you can take, as appropriate for the needs of your senior, and encourage them to do some of these to help keep them safe in the kitchen:
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen
Note: Did you know that people over 65 are estimated to be at 2 ½ times greater risk of dying in a kitchen fire?
- Install safety features on stove and oven to prevent kitchen fires (automatic shutoff)
- Remind them to wipe up spills quickly to avoid slip-and-falls
- If your senior must use a rug at the sink or stove, be sure it is secured with nonskid backing and is low profile to prevent tripping
- Check wires and plugs to be sure they are still intact and not frayed, don’t use electrical extension cords that need to be strung over a distance, don’t overload circuits
- Post emergency numbers on the fridge, including Poison Control (1-800-222-1222)
- Check the temperature of the water at the water heater to prevent scalding
- Remove any step stools or ladders from their access to prevent falling off of steps while reaching
- Be sure the oven or cooktop has a way to vent to the outdoors
- Ride the wave of the IoT in the kitchen with technology devices for safety including gadgets such as smart refrigerators that alert when products are about to expire or have expired, countertop appliances that automatically make drinks, or a service that delivers groceries to senior’s home based on list you provide
Helping Them Cook So They Eat Right
Sometimes caregivers are so worried about whether or not senior loved ones are eating the right foods that they forget they might not be physically able to cook like they once did.
Some of these fixes are easy to initiate and others will require reminders you will need to give to your seniors repeatedly.
Caregivers may not even be aware that some of these new products exist and how helpful they can be for aging in place seniors.
Do you have more hacks to share? We would love to hear from you about what works for your senior!