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Locking the Cabinets and Refrigerator for Prader-Willi Syndrome

By Allen Heinemann

Picture of locks on refrigeratorsOne of the questions that is often asked as the child with Prader-Willi syndrome gets older is, “ How can we keep our child from sneaking into the refrigerator or cupboards and getting at food?” It’s hard enough to have to keep food out of sight and put away, but then to have to constantly keep one eye toward the kitchen to catch someone before they get into food can be very stressful.

So it becomes necessary for reducing everyone’s stress level to have the food locked up. Through the years, I’ve seen many approaches. I’ve seen plastic chains draped around the entire body of the refrigerator, bars dropped across the front like you would see on a Pepsi machine, and even a cement block put in front of the door making it hard to open. Here are some of the more common solutions.

1. If your house lends itself structurally to it, a kitchen that has lockable doors is a real possibility. However, more and more homes are designed in an open format, (with the kitchen the center of activity!) and it is not practical to enclose

2. When we needed to lock up the kitchen cabinets, rather than put locks on every door, we took the area that was normally used for a small breakfast table, purchased a full sized armoire (clothes cabinet) and used it to store all our food. It had a double door that one simple hasp and padlock kept secure.

3. Kitchen cabinets are kept locked easily with a hasp and padlock arrangement that can be purchased at a hardware store. However, flush mounted key locks look better, but you may need a carpenter to install them.

4. I could find no manufacturer of home refrigerator/freezers that comes equipped with a lock from the factory or that could be ordered that way. The only thing I could find were the small hotel refrigerators, the chest style freezers, or big commercial units that were either freezer or refrigerator only, that were lockable.

5. A side-by-side refrigerator is the easiest to put a chain and padlock on. Plastic coated bicycle chain with a combination lock works the best.  (see image below)

6. Standard refrigerators can also be locked with two hasps and padlocks. This is basically a latch that swings over another looped piece on the door that the padlock then slips over to secure. The problem you run into is that on some refrigerators the Freon lines can run close to the surface. Putting screws into the side can pierce the line and ruin the refrigerator! Another safer approach is to simply epoxy the hasps to the side of the refrigerator. Both of these methods can work but are not the prettiest to look at and do deface the refrigerator.

7. There is another method that doesn’t do any damage to the refrigerator and can be done with standard hardware parts. It involves using the extra screws that come standard with most newer units. If you look close to the handles between the upper and lower compartments, you will see on the body of the refrigerator several screw holes, which are normally used if you want to reverse the doors. By purchasing a small flat metal strip calling a mending plate (it is a 1/8” thick by ½” wide by 2” long strip with holes on each end), you can mount it to the refrigerator with a tab sticking out with a hole to put a lock on. Then take a short length of light swing-set chain and loop it around the handles, locking the chain through the hole. If you followed me this far in the explanation, you won’t have any trouble installing this system. It’s main advantage it that it doesn’t deface the refrigerator and it is relatively discreet.

I’m sure there are other methods out there, and if you’ve got one that works that you think others might want to try, send it to the national office, and they’ll get it published in upcoming newsletters. My son, Matt, who has Prader-Willi, was actually relieved when we first installed locks. As Matt said, “I try and try, but my hand go in the refrigerator and I can’t stop it.”

Picture of locks on refrigerators


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