How to Buy a Countertop Microwave for Elderly With Dementia

It’s easy to take for granted the simplicity of using modern devices like phones and microwaves. By the time millennials are in their 60’s and 70’s, they’d probably have developed muscle memory for today’s gadgets. Not the case for baby boomers. Today, the elderly have a relatively harder time using technology, and this gets harder once dementia is introduced.

Dementia can drastically affect the quality of a person’s life, even if they’re within the confines of their homes. Basic functions and recognition become a safety hazard that can be very frustrating for loved ones. A photo of a dementia patient stuffing their shoe into a high tech microwave trended recently, and is not too far from the truth about what you should expect.

To help loved ones with dementia to maintain a modicum of independence, your job is to make the home as safe as possible. One of such ways is to get a microwave for elderly with dementia – that won’t even allow shoes to heat up. The idea is for your loved one to be able to heat or cook meals by his/herself. The key is simplicity and safety, not over the top and expensive.

Why Countertop Microwaves?

A microwave is only quick and easy IF your loved one can find it. As great as Microwave drawers and Over the range drawers are for keeping things neat and tidy in the kitchen, you have to remember that a person with dementia would forget its purpose very quickly. For all your dementia ridden loved one knows, a microwave that needs to be pulled out of a hidden compartment doesn’t exist. Your goal is to make everything as accessible, and as easy to find as possible. Thanks to their visibility, this makes countertop microwaves the most preferred choice for those with early stage dementia. Let’s take a lot at some of the benefits microwaves for dementia patients offer, before considering how to buy a countertop microwave for elderly with dementia.

Benefits of Countertop Microwaves for Dementia Patients

In the early stages of dementia, some key recognition skills and memory get jumbled up. The job of a microwave for dementia patients is to ensure forgetting life skills doesn’t put them in danger. These benefits are:

  • Won’t heat up inappropriate items like shoes, eggs, or tinfoil that can explode or cause fires. So even if your loved one forgets and tries to cook them, the microwave would detect the inappropriate item and stop it from heating up.
  • Won’t interfere with pacemakers. Most new models are designed to work even if a pacemaker’s nearby. If you’re not sure what model an old microwave is, and your elderly loved one happens to have a pacemaker, get a new one.
  • Microwave for dementia patients heat up just the food, and not the container, so there’s less risk of your loved one burning their hand. Even foods that are heated won’t be scalding hot.
  • Smart time reading. If a cup of hot water’s being heated for 3 hours, the microwave will detect that the timing is incorrect, and will adjust to a more appropriate time. Incorrect timings have started many house fires.
  • All microwaves for elderly have to be certified safe for use (i.e. radiation safe).

Buying Guide: Microwave Ovens For Elderly With Dementia

Someone with an impaired memory shouldn’t be near a stove. But given enough cognitive function, they should be able to cook with a microwave oven. Here are some features you should consider before choosing a microwave oven for your loved one.

Microwave Size

You can find microwave ovens in family, commercial, and small sizes. The full size of a microwave is best determined by the door clearance. That is, how much space is used up when the door is wide open. If you’re getting a trim kit for your countertop microwave, you’ll need to know what extra countertop space it’ll consume. Common sense dictates you don’t need a commercial or family sized microwave for your loved one because they’ll most likely be the only ones using it. Plus, the smaller a microwave is, the less intimidating it’ll seem.

You need a small one that’s between 0.5 and 0.7 cubic foot, and uses less than 1000 watts cooking power. Less watts means less energy is consumed every time the oven is being used. It also means that if your elderly one figures out a way to bypass the fire safety hazard of the microwave, it’ll burn less brightly because it has a very limited watt. A 600 watt microwave oven is less of a fire hazard than a 1300 watt microwave.

Display

For your dementia elderly one, you’ll need to get a microwave oven with a large display, so reading the settings and timers will be easier on their eyes. Especially helpful for those with impaired vision. Make sure the display is designed so the writing and background colors contrast. For example a bold white printing on a dark surface is better than some glossy looking design. The really cool microwaves have illuminated backlights so that the numbers can be read even in the dark. Today, most microwaves come with LED display screens that double as control settings, there are merits to choosing either them or knobs. Let’s take a look.

Controls/Buttons

Most of the best microwave ovens today come with so many bells and whistles, any ordinary person would feel intimidated approaching them. Like you’d need permission or a license to operate one. If an ordinary person feels this way, imagine what a dementia patient would feel approaching such ovens. If your loved one needs to search for the timer or the on/off button, trust us, they won’t bother using it. LED displays that operate with touch keypads aren’t the most ideal for parents because it’ll take some concentration to find which button is which. There’s a reason dials and knobs are the most popular control features on elderly microwaves. Most ovens come with 2 knobs, one to set the timer and another to turn the oven on or off.

Depending on the severity of your relative’s dementia, you can opt for those microwaves with auto-cook features. So if they want to cook fish, they can just press a boldly printed fish button and the microwave will do the rest. It’s a brilliant way to allow them cook variety, instead of just reheating food. The more severe the dementia, the better simple knobs will be for your loved one.

Open/Close Handle

You’ll also need to consider how the microwave is opened. Elderly people are at an increased risk of arthritis. If they have trouble gripping their fingers, they won’t be able to handle microwaves with pull handles. On the other hand, microwaves with discreet opening features can be confusing. Dementia patients get frustrated easily, and if they can’t figure out how to open a microwave because the handle is too subtle, they might throw a fit. You want to straddle the line between discreet and push release handles. They won’t require force or strong grips to open, and they’ll be easy to locate.

Loud Notification

If a person can forget how to operate basic appliances, they will forget they put something in the microwave. Even without dementia, most of us do. So a microwave with a loud notification feature is necessary when the food’s ready but not yet taken out. It’ll be even better if instead of a beep, the microwave passes a voice message saying the food in the microwave is ready – on the off chance the dementia patient forgets what a beep implies.

Automatic Shutoff

Finding a small microwave with an auto off feature will be like hitting the jackpot. This is because even with loud notifications, your loved one can still forget to take out their food from the microwave. An auto shutoff feature prevents energy from wasting. Furthermore, microwaves with auto shutoff features tend to regulate the temperatures in the oven. If things get out of hand, for example if a meal starts bringing out excessive smoke, it’ll either regulate itself until the temperature’s gone down, or turn it off if it detects an inappropriate object inside the oven. So even if a shoe’s tossed in, a smart microwave will know not to heat it up.

Overall Design

The overall look of the microwave you choose should be minimalist and not take up too much countertop space. The last thing you want is a ginormous or overly techy appliance your dementia ridden parent finds nightmarish.

You don’t need any of those excess features like skewers, grills, or even turntables. They’re cool if you have all your mental faculties intact, but down right intimidating if you can’t remember how to use them. Opt for microwaves with the most basic cooking features and limited timing.

There are many things that help a dementia patient use a microwave safely. Because each person with dementia has various remaining abilities and skills that are constantly changing, it’s very important for you to monitor them, and note when things deteriorate even further. At some point, you may need to deny even microwave access.

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