Dementia Friendly Microwave

With dementia, something as simple as a microwave can be hard. Simple microwaves can help.

With dementia, something as simple as a microwave can be hard. Simple microwaves can help.

Taking care of our aging parents or other family members can be a challenge. And it becomes increasingly more difficult when we have to face dementia and other age-related illnesses. Since memory loss and decline in overall mental ability are key symptoms of dementia, many kitchen appliances could become a safety issue.

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As the stove, the oven and even the toaster oven all become potential fire hazards, you may want to look into getting a microwave oven. This is a great way to compromise without taking away a senior’s right to prepare meals in the comfort of his or her own home.

What makes a microwave dementia friendly?

Although there are no microwaves on the market that are specially made for people with dementia, you can definitely find simplified microwaves with features that can make life a little easier for someone suffering from dementia.

No buttons

Today’s top rated microwaves all come equipped with so many bells and whistles that it makes you feel like you need a license to operate one. For someone with dementia, using such a microwave could be a nightmare. Having to search for the time button and the on button may become an frustrating, time-consuming task, leaving one feeling overwhelmed.

The solution is to choose a microwave that has simple, large knobs instead of buttons. Most simplified microwaves come with 2 knobs. One is to set the cooking time and the other is to set the power. You want a time knob that does not exceed 30 minutes for safety and is easy to grab and turn.

Color

You want to look for a microwave that has contrasting colors such as dark font on a white background or vice versa. The font should be large and not too close together so that it is easy to see and read.

Design

Ideally, the microwave will have a handle, which will make opening the microwave door easier than pushing a release button.

Sound alert

A loud bell or a ding to signal that the food is ready is also an important feature to have. This reduces the chances that the food will be forgotten in the microwave.

Size

Since most elderly people live alone or with a significant other, there is no need to invest in a large microwave oven. Often smaller microwaves consume less energy and look less intimidating.

Automatic shut-off

Finding a simple microwave with an automatic shut-off sensor would be like hitting the jackpot. This sensor offers an excellent safety feature for people with memory problems, since it turns off the oven when the food is cooked. This prevents food from burning or causing a fire if the timer was set too high. Unfortunately, you usually find automatic shut-off sensors in high-tech microwaves that have lots of buttons.

Finding an easy to use microwave for someone with dementia can help them feel more independent.

Finding an easy to use microwave for someone with dementia can help them feel more independent.

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Top buy for people with dementia

Considering there are hundreds of microwaves to choose from, I think the best one for individuals suffering from dementia is the Westinghouse WCM660W.

This is a 600-Watt microwave, which is perfectly sufficient to warm or cook any meal. It comes in 2 colors, black or white. There are 2 rotating knobs, which are easy to turn for seniors. Above the knobs, the settings are written in a high contrast color, which makes them easy to read.

See the Westinghouse at Amazon.

The power knob has 6 settings:

  1. Low
  2. Defrost
  3. M. Low
  4. Medium
  5. M. High
  6. High

The timer knob can be set to a maximum of 30 minutes. The first 10 minutes are in 1-minute increments. After 10, the minutes go up by 5-minute increments. When the timer reaches zero, there is a loud ding noise to let you know that the food is ready.

The only downfall of this microwave is that it does not have an automatic shut-off sensor. This means that if you forget about your food and accidentally set the timer to 30 minutes, you run the risk of burning your food. However, if setting the wrong time is a concern, you could always tape something along the side of the knob to hide the higher numbers, leaving a choice from 1 – 10 minutes only.

All in all, the Westinghouse WCM660W is simple to use and comes with an affordable price.

This post shows you how to
 bake a sweet potato in the microwave.

The runner up

The Panasonic NE-1025F Silver 1000W Commercial Microwave Oven is an excellent second choice. It is extremely dementia friendly and has an appealing design. Not to mention that it is made by a reputable electronics company.

Simple

Unlike most simplified microwaves, the Panasonic NE-1025F only has 1 knob. As you set the time, the microwave adjusts the power accordingly. For people with dementia, this means there is one less knob to worry about.

The time and cooking instructions are clearly written out in white writing on a black background and the handle is clear to see and easy to grip. Additionally, this microwave oven produces a pleasant chiming sound once the food is ready.

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Unique

A unique feature of the Panasonic NE-1025F is that it does not come with a rotating glass turntable and ring. Instead, it uses a built-in, hidden antenna. Since the turntable can be confused for a large glass plate and removed by individuals with dementia, not having one to worry about makes this microwave a little more dementia friendly.

Check out the Panasonic for yourself at Amazon.

To be honest, I don’t see a single downfall in this microwave. The only reason it did not make it as the top choice is because it is on the expensive side of the scale. However if price is not a concern for you, this could easily be the best microwave for a loved one who is suffering from dementia.

Additional Resources

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Paul D. and Carmen Z.