When you are designing an in-law suite, you may want to include a kitchen area. This allows your aging parent to still enjoy some autonomy and independence while ensuring that you are still close enough to help if needed.
The importance of taking care of themselves should not be underestimated. It promotes positive self-esteem as they age and their bodies start to fail, and it also maintains higher functioning levels mentally and physically. The trick is in designing a kitchen that will work for your mother or father now and as they continue to age.
Invest in the Basics
The goal is to provide your parent with a small cooking area, so you don’t have to put in a full kitchen with all the bells and whistles. You should have a refrigerator for cold drinks and some basic food staples. A pantry is necessary for canned goods. Other necessities include the sink, counter space, a microwave and a small stove.
None of the appliances need to be full-size, but they should be easy to operate. Glass-top stoves with sensors that let you know if the stove is hot are a good choice, and look for appliances with large handles and markings that are easy to read. Side-by-side refrigerators allow for easy access to food, and wall ovens are a better choice since users don’t have to bend low to access them. A raised dishwasher is also better for people with limited mobility.
The top consideration should be floor space. Your mother may be mobile and getting around fine now, but what happens in a few years if she is in a wheelchair? You need to make sure that there is at least 32-inches of clear space through all openings and between fixtures to allow for a wheelchair. There should also be larger areas throughout the kitchen for turning the chair if necessary. The spaces directly in front of appliances should have a 60-inch clearing for wheelchair access. You can use a mother in law suite floor plan to help you create a great layout for your space.
Counter considerations are one of the most difficult. Standing people look for counters that are 36-inches high, but someone in a wheelchair will need lower counters that are only 28- to 32-inches tall. One solution is to make the counters taller now and plan on having them lowered if your parent ever winds up in a wheelchair. If the remodeling contractor knows that this will happen, then he can put measures in place now to make the renovation easier later.
Handicapped Friendly Accessories
Placing upper cabinets a few inches lower makes reaching them easier. Install special interior fixtures that allow seniors to pull the shelves out and down for easy access to the items. Lazy Susans on shelves and in cabinets make it simple to find the items that are in the back. Instead of lower cabinets, invest in lower drawers that are easy to operate and prevent items from being forgotten in the back. Place anti-slip mats on the floor to help prevent falls, or use anti-slip flooring materials that are safer for walkers and wheelchairs.
With the right planning, the kitchen you install for your mother-in-law or father will suit their needs today and as they age. Even when they transition to walkers and eventually to a wheelchair, the kitchen will be able to suit their purposes and allow them to maintain that sense of independence and the ability to do some things for themselves. It’s tempting to just have them use the kitchen in the main house, but your kitchen won’t suit their changing needs. However, having their own kitchen that they are able to use helps seniors maintain higher levels of cognitive functioning as well as physical abilities.