This study examined the effectiveness of microwave ovens in assisting elderly persons with disabilities with cooking food.
The participants were five elderly persons who had gross motor, fine motor, or vision impairments but no cognitive impairments. Before the study, none of the participants owned or operated a microwave oven. In this single-subject design of four phases (ABAB), training in microwave oven use was provided between the first A (baseline) and first B (intervention) phases. Participants had access so the microwave oven in their homes only during the B phases. Each phase lasted for 3 weeks, for a total of 12 weeks. The frequency of using cooking appliances, the number of food items prepared, and the time spent preparing meals were recorded through daily self-reports.
All participants showed an increase in the frequency of using cooking appliances for at least one of the two B phases, although they showed different patterns. The number of food items prepared increased in the B phases, except for two participants who were ill. With the introduction of the microwave oven, time spent preparing meals decreased for all five participants, and their participation in meal preparation increased. Although not measured as a study variable, results suggest that the quality of diet also improved with microwave oven use.
Occupational therapy practitioners who serve elderly clients might consider recommending microwave ovens for those who do not have cognitive impairments but who are having difficulty with cooking because of vision impairments or physical disabilities.
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