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If there’s no need to cook, a kitchen area can be confusing, frustrating

April, 2011

I am always intrigued to observe the reactions of loved ones when they visit full care facilities.

A person who needs a high level of care will have all their meals provided. In some residences these rooms have a kitchen area with a sink, a fridge, and a wall full of cupboard space. There are two opposite reactions to the lack of or the presence of a kitchen area.

Some loved ones feel that it uses up living space and makes the room smaller. Others feel that the look of this kitchen area gives the feeling of a studio apartment contributing to a sense of independence even if the person is not able to use it.

It may make a family more comfortable knowing that their mother, who spent most of her days in the kitchen, has a kitchen area. Others think it is confusing to have a kitchen area that will never be used and may cause frustration for their mother who may want to putter around and cook.

Who is this kitchen space really designed for? I rarely see residents using it other than keeping a few cold drinks or snacks in the fridge. If there is no designated kitchen area, the family can bring in a bar fridge.

If there is a private bathroom, a sink already exists there so what’s the point of a second sink?

A small kitchen area may be useful for semi-autonomous residents who can manage to prepare breakfast in their rooms. Not every building was built to be a senior residence. So when an apartment building is converted into a residence the large fully functional kitchens remains.

Kitchen are a questionable asset if meals are included in the monthly rent. The whole point of a meal program is to avoid cooking, which can also be dangerous in some cases. How much space is needed for snacks or simple breakfasts?

I often advise clients to use the spacious kitchen cupboards for clothing and personal belongings.

While it may be a difficult adjustment for family to see their loved one living in a room rather than a full apartment or house, a simple space, uncluttered may be the most comfortable when the loved one is confused.

Simple layouts, hallways without too many twists and turns, or circular layouts for those who need to walk for long periods work best. Some care floors in residences are converted from autonomous floors as the need for them grows.

So when visiting care facilities, think about the set up and what would work best for your loved one. Try not to think about what is most appeal- ing to your taste. No cooking, no kitchen — unless you’re planning to stock the pantry and whip up a few gourmet meals while visiting your loved one.

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