How can I convince my mom to stop using the stove?

13 answers | Last updated: Nov 26, 2015
Revyarb asked...

Hi, The concern I am faced with my mom is cooking. She tells us that she won’t use the stove, but when she feels the urge she does anyway. There is a personal caregiver with her four days for seven hours of the day. When the personal caregiver is gone for the day this is when she gets busy. There is a microwave available for her use; we feel that using that is much less dangerous. However even with the microwave there has been food burned to a crisp. One day I smelled a unusual burn smell in her apt. and when I enquired about it, she told me it was her “hair”. Her mom told her never to throw hair in the garbage, so she chose to burn it in the microwave. My question to you is, is there a way that we can reach her to convince her that cooking is no longer an option? We know the other option is turning off the gas, however the caregiver won’t be able to fulfill her duties this way. If we shut off the gas a huge confrontation will soon follow and she is one that can put on a show. We are desperately trying to keep her mild during this time because we are in the process of petitioning the court for guardianship. Currently she is telling the court that she desires that I am her guardian, and a confrontation could jeopardize her decision. I eagerly await your thoughts Bless Your Spirit! -RevYarb

Expert Answers

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

The sad news is that your mother does need protection. Her mind is jumping to unexpected conclusions.  For instance, to get rid of hair and to follow her mother's advice, she burns her hair in the microwave.  Or, if you have a helper who cooks for her, she thinks that she must wait for the helper to leave, before she can cook.   She is operating from a different logic so you could not count on her not to use the stove.

When you talk with her, she might mean to comply, but her logic makes more sense to her.    Cooking is an old habit.   And so is wanting independence.

The good news is that you are progressing toward guardianship.

But perhaps your caregiver could help you buy some time. Could the helper enter your mother's home very humbly? Could she ask your mother's advice?  "What do you want to eat?"  "How do you cook it?" Is there some way that your mom could cook while the helper is there?

 Let her cook! Maybe she would not feel that her indepenence is threatened so much. She could get the cooking bug out of her system. She is not being replaced.   It might not be perfect, but you could help her with some meals and show the caregiver how to help her. You would have to work with the caregiver, support her, let her know what you are trying to do.

Another thing that you could do would be to take her to a geriatric psychiatrist who may be able to help with a diagnosis and a treatment that would help your mother get through this time of adjustment.

These ideas might help until the guardianship is completed and you can make the needed arrangements for your dear mother.

Community Answers

Dundonian answered...

I read a similar post on another website where a family dealt with this problem by disabling the stove and convincing the elderly parent that it was broken. In their case it was an electric stove and they flipped the appropriate breaker switch. They then arranged for meals to be brought to the house while they told her they were making arrangements to have it "fixed". I'm not sure how you would disable a gas stove other than turning off the gas, which doesn't seem to be a viable option in your case. However you might be able to disable the microwave.
This is a tough situation. I hope you are able to find an appropriate solution while you buy time to finalize your guardianship petition.

Seastar answered...

Hi, I just want to say that even though my logic doesn't make sense to Mom, we do cook together. She has a stool in the kitchen so she can be up longer with me without standing all the time. I let her chop stuff and stir things on the stove - we try to make enough dinner to have leftovers the next day. That way if she needs to warm something in the microwave, she still feels indpendent, but I'm not feeling overall stress about her 'cooking'. I can also set out appropriate serving sizes as she doesn't eat enough food if I am not home to dish it. I've accepted the fact that I do have to do cooking now, instead of just eating a bowl of cereal or eating out all the time. This is another precious opportunity for me to get Mom to share about what she carried in lunches to school, favorite things she likes to make, show me how to can jelly and remember her long gone friends that used to pick berries and garden with her. I may not like cooking so much, but I love to hear about these things while she remembers them!

Eadler1220 answered...

If her stove is gas-based, you can try to remove the knobs. We did that with my mom, and it works wonders!

Galowa answered...

Hi RevYarb,


There are many different ways to DISABLE a gas stove. Of course most people do not want to turn off the gas MAIN LINE, but that does not mean you cannot have a shut-off valve installed somewhere, in the house, IN-LINE. If you have a basement, cellar, garage, or even a cabinet near the stove, you can have a gas shut-off valve installed in a hidden place unknown to your mother, but accessible to her caregiver. In fact, you could have it installed in a cabinet adjacent to the stove and put a LOCK on the cabinet. That's what I'd do.

My mother has Alzheimer's Disease and the stove is one of THE most dangerous temptations in the house. When she was still in her own home she nearly burned down the house, burned countertops, and blew up a pressure-cooker! And that was WITH SOMEONE THERE!!!

Now she lives at my house and the whole kitchen is OFF LIMITS. We tell her she has NO KITCHEN PRIVILEGES! HOWEVER, we ALSO emphasize that she is now THE GRAND MATRIARCH of the family, and far too important to cook any longer.

It is AMAZING how far a little ego massaging can go. And it's not a lie. It is VERY IMPORTANT that she NEVER COOK AGAIN. Of course she has now developed a little bit of attitude and likes to be waited on hand and foot, but she's earned it, she deserves it, and it beats a four alarm fire any day...

Good Luck!


: )


If the microwave is also a problem, try buying her a smaller, less powerful microwave, as that would seriously limit the amount of damage she could do. Also, make sure the microwave is plugged into a "GROUND FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTER." That could be a special outlet installed in the wall in place of a normal outlet, OR, you might be able to buy one separately to install IN-LINE between the microwave and a regular grounded wall outlet. Ask at a hardware store.


Eadler1220 answered...

I agree with Galowa 100%. We've adopted the same "no kitchen privileges" policy with my 88 year old mom, who has dementia and Parkinson disease, in addition to having removed all knobs from our stove top, just to be safe. This was a tough thing for her to accept, since she used to practically "live" in the kitchen -- cook for us all, especially the kids. But after a few unsettling experiences that didn't even involve the stove (e.g., handling sharp knives, hiding perishable food in the drawers, mixing all sorts of strange stuff, opening the fridge every few minutes and endlessly staring inside), we concluded it would be better if she "retired" from her cooking career and let us do the cooking! She's fine with it now, just sits down and lets us serve her meals, so everybody's better off. She's allowed in the kitchen while I'm there, but that's the only time.

Revyarb answered...

Many thanks to all of you who posted and gave great advise, I did eventually disconnect the stove. She had a hissy fit for a while but was soon over it. Now my issue is with the microwave, LOL, she has put in a skillet in burned it and almost blew it up. I had to replace it, the trouble was trying to get her adjusted to the new one. My wife thought it would not be a issue, but it was a big one. She could not adjust to the different settings although we written them down and taped them on top of the microwave in #36 fonts. The other day, I thought I would buy her something sweet to nibble on, well it was a almond cake in a aluminum pan that I didn't notice on the bottom of the package, and yes you guessed it, she put it in there to warm up. Hey, we gotta love these moments.

Galowa answered...

Hi RevYarb!

Best thought of mine?

Go on craigslist and get your princess an OLD dinosaur microwave that still works. These are BIG, (which MY Polish princess likes,) are usually pathetically low-powered, and often cheap or FREE. So if she does it again... nothing lost.

Last, you gotta put some Prayer Power into asking God to open your eyes WIDE when you approach any food packaged with metal - and ZAP you if you touch it!!! ; )

Seriously, make sure anything you buy her says MICROWAVABLE on the package. Also, now that the stove is gone, time to package up her pots and pans... just be sure she's got enough tupper and other wares to use in place of... Corelle is a nice non-metal, non-plastic alternative...

Also, check out MEALS ON WHEELS for well-prepared MICROWAVABLE meals delivered to her door, along with fresh fruit, bagels, milk, juice and pre-made salads, and the occasional unexpected goodie. They deliver daily or weekly (or any way you want.) They request a DONATION of some LOW fee per meal to cover costs, but if people are UNABLE to pay, the food is free... Federally sponsored senior health program - we're already paying for part of it! (And this federal program doesn't involve invading any foreign countries.)

Though they do not have much variety in their offerings and do not provide for ethnic or regional preferences, WE provide the variety and use these meals for lunches etc. My mother LOVES their food, and it saves us from having to whip up something at the odd times she's hungry. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Also, delivery comes with a VISIT, if desired, as the delivery folk are all volunteers, (LOCAL volunteers,) and MANY are able seniors or senior couples just ITCHING for a chat. Of course, the visit is OPTIONAL, if your mother would prefer not.

Soldier on Rev... it's one small battle at a time.

Best to you!


: )


Funnymom answered...

I have a note next to the stove that says "do not cook alone" I also buy her alot of frozen food for the microwave. It seems to be helping! We only let her cook when we are there with her or just cook for her!....GOOD LUCK!!

Carolyn l. rosenblatt answered...

I definitely don't agree with the advice that says "let her cook". That is asking for disaster. If you know an elder is unsafe around a stove or microwave, and she uses it when she's alone, use common sense as others have suggested and disable the stove or remove it. Same with the microwave, unless someone is there to operate it with her. It's kind of like letting an unsafe driver drive "until there's an accident". What happens if she starts a fire and dies? If the microwave needs to stay for the sake of the caregiver, there's a way to put a lock on the plug to keep it from being plugged in. Give the key to the caregiver only. Elders can adjust to limitations. They have to. You as the adult child have an obligation to protect the elder from herself if you know she is dangerous and most especially if you want to be a guardian.

A fellow caregiver answered...

My mom may be at risk from all of the above but she can still earn $100 an hour teaching violin lessons. Try telling the main bread winner in the family, even if she is over 80 years old, that the kitchen is off limits......

Clubkeller answered...

After a surgery my dad was confused. He was watched when he cooked by someone that wasn't family and it was terrible. He was confused on which burner was on, he had paperplates on the other burner. It was terrible. Plus he was so frustrated because his ability to cook had changed. He got mad, things did not work the same for him either. He couldn't remember how he'd prepare his food. Not good. Shortly after that I knew he couldn't be alone and was moved.

My dad was now in assisted living and I knew he couldn't cook, but there was a stove In his room. So I asked them to remove it and they did. They put in a new countertop and base cabinet. Then I got him a small college type microwave that had a dial timer that was maximum 30 mins. It worked well. And he did not miss doing any of that cooking stuff in the end.

Cinmaz answered...

My mother was also abusing the stove top, oven and microwave with unsupervised use. We checked the manuals and found that most newer appliances have "child lock" options that allow you to lock the appliance by pushing certain buttons. It's easy to do, and just as easy to undo when the appliance is used. We now have a regular routine of locking the microwave and stove top so that she cannot turn them on and we no longer have to worry about unsupervised use. Check the manuals for your appliances and see if this is an easy option. We also replaced the kitchen counter plug that's used for the kettle, with a GFI plug (the kind found in most bathrooms). The new plug can be disabled by pushing the little button on the faceplate, thus rendering the plug useless by breaking the circuit (and prolonging the life of our kettle). A small green or red light on the faceplate tells you if the plug is functional or not, so it's easy to know if the circuit is live or not. We found that these precaustions in the kitchen reduce the stress of worrying about unsupervised use and potential damage or injury.