Kitchen questions

kknyNovember 19, 2009

My elderly mom may at some time have to come live with me. I am redoing my kitchen now, and trying to keep her in mind. Can some one help -- if she likes tea, what is the safest mechanism to have in kitchen? Instant hot water maker (can be too hot)? Stove (she can leave pot on)? Microwave -- high up, but I could get a small one and put on counter and just move when we have company? Electric tea kettle? Many thanks.

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My mother had problems using a microwave. After she entered 100 minutes instead of 1 minute, we had to stop her use of the microwave. So much depends on your mother's cognitive and physical abilities at the time. Abilities can change pretty rapidly.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 11:31AM
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So is there anything your mom can use now.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 11:54AM
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How about an electric kettle? It is almost foolproof. You put water into it, put it on it's base, push the button down, and wait. It turns itself off when it starts to boil. We used one when we lived in England, and I had to have one when we moved back. Mine has a glass area so I can see how much water I'm putting in. I would look into one. If you get one for her now, she could become use to in before the move, so it would be familiar.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 1:18PM
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Thank you so much.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 3:00PM
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Connie Kru

My Mom put metal bowls and pans in her microwave.
I think your answer is to wait till she comes and then make a close and careful evaluation after watching her for a few weeks. Good Luck

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 11:12PM
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My mother is now in a nursing home; it got too dangerous for her to be at home even with 24 hour care. While using her walker, she would suddenly sink to the floor.

Mama could use nothing in the kitchen for at least a year before her move. The electric kettle sounds good for your mother as long as she is able to pour hot water safely.

Good luck from me too.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2009 at 8:22AM
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Honestly, after dealing with my mom and her deteriorating ability to understand how things work, I think the best idea for your kitchen remodel is to have lockable doors. That way you have complete control and oversight of what your mom will be doing in your kitchen. I know this is not an answer you want to hear. But even the electric tea kettle can be problematic as IREAD mentioned. The kettle may have an automatic turn-off so she wouldn't be able to burn the house down, but if she becomes frail and her arm & wrist strength diminishes, she could easily end up burning herself trying to pour the hot water.

Elderly parents and kitchens can be a nightmare. You never know when they'll get it into their heads to fix themselves a snack or get dinner started just to be "helpful." When my mom lived with us, she constantly wanted to get in the kitchen with me to "help." She was frail & had very poor vision. There simply wasn't anything that she could safely do and having her standing right next to me while I was chopping vegetables or dealing with hot pans was dangerous for the both of us.The situation is very similar to having small young children in the kitchen.

Microwaves are problematic because sometimes elders can't see well or can't remember quite how they work. So you can easily get a fire situation from a simple roll being warmed up for 30 minutes. Stove tops are dangerous because pots can be put on and then the elder walks away and forgets what they were doing. Same with toaster ovens.

Even regular toasters can be a problem. When my mom lived in her first AL, she'd go out shopping every Friday with the AL group. She brought back frozen Texas Toast and put it in her toaster. The stuff was loaded with butter, oil, & cheese. It dripped all over the insides of her toaster but she was oblivious to the mess and the smell of burning oil. I didn't discover what she was doing until she was sick one day and I went over to help take care of her. I thought a piece of toast would be nice and stuck some plain bread in her toaster. The thing started smoking from all the oily drippings. I unplugged it, examined it, and realized what she had been doing. Eventually the oily drippings would have caused a fire if I hadn't discovered what was going on. Needless to say, the frozen Texas Toast was tossed as was her toaster. And I never got her a replacement.

I have a friend whose parents live with her and her husband. They're going through difficulties regarding kitchen use now. Towels left on the gas stove top, foods burned in the microwave, etc. They have an open plan concept and it's proving very difficult to always monitor the parents' kitchen use. The problem is that eventually all the warnings and rules don't register with the elderly parents.

As I said before, after dealing with my mom and watching my friend deal with her parents, kitchens are a real problem area. Since you're going to remodel, you've got the time to think carefully about your appliances and their locations, your storage areas and their location, all kinds of things. Even something as simple as where you're going to store your knives is important to think about.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2009 at 4:02PM
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IMHO, if you're even having to consider this the game is over. Kitchens are VERY dangerous places for older folks who can't see or hear or have even moderate dementia extant. There's the way she is now and the way she'll be changing -- sometimes from day-to-day -- without your knowing it except via accidents. The task is to avoid the accidents.

My suggestion would be not to worry about the kitchen itself. There's no way you can proof it against anything that may happen. If you are unable to make it off-limits you will simply have to be with her when she's there. We do a lot of that at our house (mom's 97, dementia, poor vision) but I'm here all the in ALL the time.

It's a hard time of life.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2009 at 7:14PM
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Oh, you absolutely can proof a kitchen. All my "dangerous" appliances- the stove, toaster, toaster oven, microwave- are on one circuit that I flip off whenever I leave the house.
All that works is the fridge and the lights.
Is it sneaky and sad? Sure. But I can go grocery shopping without worrying whether or not the house will be standing when I get back.
It's not an issue when I am home (which is mostly all the time) as I can hear her if she moves around. But those microwave boil overs are nasty and I'm done cleaning them up. She just has to wait for me to make the soup :)

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 2:17PM
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Cearbhail, I was also going to suggest something like what you've got. In fact, a few years ago when we were contemplating building a small granny flat on our property, that was exactly how I was going to design the kitchen. I was going to have all electric cooking appliances so there could be an easy switch off for them. The only consideration would be if your parent got creative and, for example, unplugged the toaster from its spot and then plugged it into a working outlet.

Believe me, after dealing with my mom, I wouldn't put anything past her ability to try & try. That's the problem. You can never be completely certain that your elder won't figure out a way to go around all your precautions. That's why I think the circuit switches combined with lockable door are still the best protection. In addition, the contents of cupboards & drawers need to be guarded. Perhaps even with locks. I'm not sure that baby-proofing aids would be a perfect solution. I know my mother is frail & weak, but when she's determined to get into something, the strength appears out of nowhere. A couple of times she got frustrated trying to get her elastic waist pants down over her Depends when using the bathroom. She somehow manage to summon up the strength to rip her pants at the sides so she could get them down. And the rips went through the one inch elastic waistband. I'm not sure I have the strength to do something like that.

My point is, if you've got a determined elder whose made up their mind that they want something, they'll find a way to do it.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 7:43PM
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As the elder in my home situation, may I offer and entirely non-technical suggestion. Get an "air pot", a thermos with a pump that dispenses the contents into a cup. Fill with hot water in the morning and she can have hot tea at any time with no switches and no lifting. I use one myself for it's convenience.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 2:38PM
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How about a good old fashion Thermos bottle, make a quart of it for her in the morning and it wills stay warm/not scalding all day?

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 2:11AM
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