Arthritis: how to keep safe in the kitchen

Gran and granddaughter cooking
Gran and granddaughter cooking

If you have arthritis, much that happens in the kitchen can cause you pain – from peeling things, to opening jars and cupboards, to lifting heavy pots and pans, scrubbing dishes or simply hauling groceries about.

1/3 of home fires occur in the kitchen

But the kitchen can also be a dangerous place: one third of home fires occur in the kitchen, warns the Australian Metropolitan Fire Service.

Importantly, you should never leave cooking unattended.

For you, the kitchen can also be a potentially painful place. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to make life easier and safer for yourself, and to minimise your discomfort.

Read: Arthritis and gardening

Here are some tips from a variety of experts including Melinda Winner for the Arthritis Foundation and from the Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior:

- Get help. Don’t try to pick up heavy pots and pans or boxes and bottles by yourself. Ask someone else to do it for you if you can. While they’re there they might as well chop some veggies for you and unscrew any jars or bottles you might need to use.

- Keep all the things you use the most in the most accessible places, such as the front part of the shelves in the fridge and most reachable shelves in the grocery cupboard.

- Get a wheeled utility cart that you can use to move things around. It’s always much easier on all your joints to push something around on wheels than it is to carry it.

- Buy frozen chopped vegetables instead of trying to do the chopping yourself. This is especially true for people with arthritis who live by themselves.

- Keep pots and pans you use often on the stove or in an easily reachable place. In many kitchens pots and pans are stored in the lower shelves of cupboards. Make a different plan in yours, such as hanging then from low hooks at an accessible height.

- Invest in electric gadgets that will open tins, whisk eggs, mix dough and do general food processing.

- Get a comfortable seat so that you don’t have to stand if you’re preparing food for cooking.

- Invest in a good pair of oven gloves to prevent burns when handling hot dishes from the oven or off the stove.

- If you get a dishwasher, try and get one that fits onto the kitchen counter to limit the amount of bending you have to do. If you don’t have a dishwasher, remember that warm water is always soothing to the joints.

- Check the flooring you have in the kitchen. Some ceramic tiles may be incredibly slippery when wet. Consider installing a wooden floor or some other non-slip surface.

- Wipe up any spills immediately, especially those on the floor. Slipping is the last thing you need. Also spills that have hardened are much more difficult to clean on any surface, as they’ll require scrubbing.

- Get corner cupboards with turntables inside, or cupboards that pull out. They place so much less stress on the joints. 

- Never pull open bags or packets – get a sharp pair of scissors to use in the kitchen.

- Cook more than you need and freeze – next time you may not feel up to cooking, and then there will be a cooked meal in the freezer.

- Use smaller bin liners with handles, so you can put your arms in the handles and use your body weight to lift them out rather than struggling with a huge bin bag that needs to be lifted out by hand.

- Consider getting an eye-level or counter-top oven if you have difficulty bending down to get things out of a low oven.

- Carting groceries from the car is a killer. Do your grocery shopping online. For an extra fee (or sometimes for free) the delivery people will unpack the groceries.

- Do things in stages. If you have a large meal to prepare, do the food prep in the morning and have a rest before carrying on. Nothing puts more stress on your joints than sudden prolonged activity that you’re not used   to.

- Keep ingredients for meals that are easy to prepare, such as chicken pieces and chopped vegetables or pasta   sauces in bottles.

- Keep a pair of barbecue tongs handy – they’re so useful if you ever have to pick up things off the floor and you don’t want to bend down.

- Make sure you have a telephone connection/panic button in the kitchen in case you fall, get hurt, or need help.

Read More:

Arthritis... How to choose the right furniture

Arthritis and shopping

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24