February is low-vision awareness month, and it’s a great time for at-home caregivers to evaluate homes for improvements that can assist seniors who cope with vision impairments. In addition to bathrooms and key living areas, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the homes to address for ideas on low-vision tips.
Why the kitchen?
More than 100,000 people are injured in home kitchen-related accidents annually. These injuries include burns, cuts, slips, falls, food-related poisonings, and fires, among others. For a person with low vision, the need for special care increases; if he or she has a hard time seeing, the risk of accident rises.
Seniors with vision impairments should consider some of these tips for helping to prevent kitchen-related injuries:
Let there be light. The more available light, the better a person with low vision can see; however, it’s important that the lights be focused on the work area. Lights that glow directly into a person’s eye can make vision issues worse. Try putting lights underneath cabinets or using goose-neck lamps that are easily adjustable.
Extend those mitts. Most oven mitts cover only the hand. However, mitts that go up to near the elbow are more effective. A person with low vision may easily misjudge the locations of edges or racks of a hot oven, so covering more of the arm can help prevent burns.
Know the stove dials. Many people forget that they have left the stove burners on; often they turn the dial but not all the way to the “off” setting. Attach a raised mark on the dial and on the “off” position so that the two line up when the stove is properly turned off; a person with low vision can then feel rather than see whether the stove has been shut down.
Time it. Turn on a kitchen timer or set an alarm clock as a reminder to turn off the oven when the food is properly cooked.
Be board. Using cutting boards is important; it’s also a good idea to have at least two: one in a light color and one in a dark color. Use the light board for dark food products and the dark board for light food products; the contrast will help a senior better see and more accurately cut food.
Pay attention to your drawers. Take special care to organize the drawers where flatware and utensils are kept so that a low vision senior can more easily locate needed items. Sharp ends of forks should point away.
Don’t hang loose. Long, loose sleeves are more likely to drop onto a lit burner. Wear short sleeves in the kitchen when possible.
Do some labeling. Stick large labels on cans and other containers with the names of the items in large, easily-readable print. Also, once the kitchen is organized, label cabinets and drawers so that anyone helping in the kitchen can return items to their respective places.
Keep poisons out of the kitchen. Move insect repellents, cleaners, and other poisonous solutions out of the kitchen if possible; otherwise, keep such compounds locked up in a cabinet in which no food products or food preparation items are stored.
Taking special care in the kitchen can help to prevent accidents and enable low vision seniors to continue to safely enjoy their cooking experiences. For more information about adaptations for the blind and those with vision impairment, please visit the American Foundation for the Blind.