Saturday, December 16, 2017

"Kitchens Are Busy (And Potentially Dangerous) Places This Time Of Year"

Thanksgiving kicks off the end of year holiday celebrations and ushers in the cooking and baking that goes along with them. As such, the kitchen takes on a renewed focus for aging in place professionals. Always a center of activity in the home, the kitchen is action central during this time of year.

All of the meal planning, the food preparation, the cooking, the gathering of friends and family members for coffee, drinks, fellowship, snacks, and awaiting the meal to be ready to be served occur in the kitchen. It doesn't matter how large or small the kitchen is and how many people it can comfortably accommodate, on Thanksgiving and the other holidays that are celebrated at this time, it seems to get everyone in.

The same type of activity - maybe not to the elaborate extent that a Thanksgiving or these other feasts seem to call for - happens every other day of the year. As aging in place professionals we are quite aware of the challenges that the kitchen presents in terms of maintaining a safe and comfortable environment.

Think of the number of people that can be present at any one time in the kitchen, the variety of tasks that are being conducted - many at the same time, the various activities from food storage to cooking and cleanup, and all of the opportunities that are present for mishaps to occur.

Not trying to jinx a joyous activity such as meal preparation for a feast, it just naturally happens that with the amount of activity that goes on in the kitchen on normal days that the chance of someone getting injured on a day such as Thanksgiving or similar holiday is increased.

We're not talking about anything serious - hopefully - but the kitchen presents so many safety issues.

First, there are burns - touching hot pots and pans, getting too close to escaping steam from food or containers, touching a hot burner (gas or electric) or the oven door or shelf, eating or drinking something straight from the container when it is too hot to consume comfortably, having heated liquid (cooking oil, gravy, or water, for example) splash onto the skin, spilling hot liquid or contents onto clothing or feet, using water from the faucet when it is too warm, or touching a candle or light bulb when they are lit.

Cuts can happen - accidental cuts from knives and scissors, sharp edges of plastic packaging, paper cuts, sharp lids from cans, sharp or blunt animal bones while preparing meat dishes, broken or chipped glass on serving dishes or drinking glasses and cups, cracked or broken glass or ceramic cutting boards, stepping onto broken glass from something that just broke after falling onto the countertop or floor, poking a finger with a knife point or fork tine, or walking into the edge of an open cabinet door or other relatively sharp surface.

There also are bruises - walking into the corners of cabinets or countertops, hitting open appliance doors (oven, microwave, dishwasher, or refrigerator), bumping into the leg of a table or chair, or dropping a canned good or frozen item onto a hand or foot. 

Then there are falls - falling off of a step stool or ladder used to reach a higher shelf, falling off a chair while attempting to sit down and misjudging where the chair is or having the chair move out of the way, or falling when a chair leg or chair back that was providing support while seated on the chair breaks, cracks, or gives way.

There are other safety issues in the kitchen, but it's easy to see how the kitchen can be treacherous when we want it to be such a happy place in the home. Let's be careful and then strive to help our clients remain safe in their kitchens also. The kitchen is always an important, and busy, place in the home, but when family, friends, and neighbors gather to help celebrate the holidays, the chances of a safety breech are heightened. 


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging in place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.