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Home Modifications Guide – Kitchen

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Making some modifications to your kitchen can prevent issues and support the independence and safety of people living at home especially for those living with dementia.

Need to make your kitchen safer?

Appliances used in the kitchen, such as the stove, toaster and microwave oven, have the potential to cause harm if not used in the manner intended. Serious injury or death can occur as a result of electrocution or fire. Cleaning products and some food products can also be hazardous.

There are a number of simple things that can be tried to make the environment more supportive to both the person with dementia and those around them. Only change what needs changing, and keep the kitchen as familiar as possible.

A Customised Response To Your Unique Needs

All of us have different needs and respond to both the environment and other people around us in different ways. It is critical that any decision to change the environment or use new technology follows a person-centred assessment. This ensures the perspectives, needs and choices of the person with dementia are understood and respected.

What works for some people does not always work for others.

It is important to provide ongoing evaluation of the technology or strategies used for supporting independence and safety in the home. In doing so, it remains meaningful to the person and matches their needs and abilities.

Here is a handy guide to help you identify whether you need to make any modifications to your kitchen.

Environmental Suggestions

  • A split door or barn style door while providing a person with dementia with an opportunity to see you, also assists with preventing access to the kitchen area during busy times.
  • Labels or signs on cupboards eliminate the need to remember what is in the cupboard. Another option, where appropriate, is to remove the cupboard doors completely.
  • Labelling hot and cold taps minimises the risk of scalds.

Simple Technology Suggestions

  • Kettle – the majority of kettles are sold with automatic cut off switches that prevent the kettle from boiling dry. Some kettles have an added safety feature of not being able to switch on, unless the minimum required water has been added. Retractable or spiral safety cords also reduce the risk of cord getting in the way, on a bench top.
  • An Oven Guard is a protective cover placed over the oven door which acts as a heat barrier. It also prevents contact burns. These covers can be attached to the oven door with magnets or Velcro and are made of fire resistant material.
  • A Lockable Cabinet is useful for storing household cleaning products that are poisonous. They can be mounted on the wall out of reach or placed inside a cupboard, out of view. They can be purchased from most larger hardware or homeware stores.
  • Circuit Breakers provide short circuit and over-current protection. Safety switches monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit and detect a problem which may pose a risk to personal safety and turn the power off. It is worthwhile to review if your home has these installed. If not, your local energy supplier may be able to assist.
  • Appliance Locks can be used on a microwave oven, fridge, oven, or other household appliances. The locks are useful if there is a concern that the person with dementia, is not able to use household items safely. These products can be self installed and purchased from hardware stores or stores where children’s safety products are sold.
  • A ‘Mag Lock’ is a discreet magnetic lock system which can be used on drawers, cupboards or anywhere in the home. It was designed to be invisible, with the locking component fitted to the inside of the cupboard or drawer, while the magnetic key operates the lock, from outside the drawer. It can be installed on wood, plastics or laminates. The device does not draw attention to the fact that the cupboard is locked.
  • Plug-In Gas Alarms plug directly into the power point and detect escaping gas or unignited gas. The detectors emit an alarm to alert the householder. There are both LPG and Natural Gas alarms available for purchase; with instructions for placement of the alarm based on the type of gas in your home.
  • Thermo mixing valve blends hot water with cold water preventing scalding and ensuring a consistent and safe water temperature.
  • A Shallow Depth Fridge may make finding contents in the fridge easier.

Advanced Technology Suggestions

  • The Vigil Electric or Gas Stove Isolation System is a stove isolation system that will automatically switch the stove off after 20 minutes. There is a bypass switch that allows relatives or carers to use the stove for up to two hours. A licensed gas fitter is required for a gas stove fitting and a licensed electrician is recommended for electric stoves.
  • Induction Cook Top are electronically operated and produce heat only within the cooking utensils and not on the hotplates.
  • Wireless Smoke Detectors use a base unit linked to a telephone in the home. They are designed to alert the resident and a call centre if smoke is detected.
  • Automated Home Systems use wireless or ‘hard wiring’ systems. They can be programmed to operate curtains, lights, heating, and security. They also monitor the use of equipment such as the cooker, the fridge and water usage. The system can identify if the cooker has been left on for an extended period, monitor when the resident has left their home or when they have returned. It notifies a carer, or call centre, if there are changes to a person’s regular routine that indicate they may be unwell or injured.

To work out the best solutions to meet your specific needs, we recommend speaking with an Occupational Therapist for advice. This ensures that the recommendations appropriate to the customer are identified and that the risk of inappropriate purchases is minimised.