Kent Fire & Rescue Service
Navigate
Home > Your safety > Home safety > Safe and Well visits > Safe and Well - Are you living with dementia? > Further support if you're living with dementia
Further support if you're living with dementia

Further support if you're living with dementia

Safe and Well - Landing page - DEMENTIA.png

Keeping safe is important for us all. However it can become difficult to maintain safety if you or someone you know is living with dementia, particularly if you or they are living alone.

Everyday risks around the home can be more difficult to avoid if you’re living with dementia:

  •  Being confused about using simple appliances like a kettle.
  •  Feeling less comfortable or secure.
  •  Becoming forgetful and leaving things switched on. 
  •  Finding that you’re less able to climb the stairs or use some furniture.

Together with Kent Fire and Rescue Service, we can help you feel Safe and Well by reducing risk in your home and supporting you to help overcome challenges you might experience. We want you to stay safe in your home, for as long as possible.

Mobility, hearing and eyesight issues

An uncluttered home can help reduce slips, trips and falls 

  • Too much clutter can add to confusion. It can also present trip hazards and potential fire hazards.

  • For instance, a dark mat in front of a door may look like a hole in the floor to a person with dementia.

  • Removing loose rugs and mats, seal up carpet edges and provide non-slip flooring to reduce the risk of hazards.

  • Tripping over a loose heater cable could result in the person falling onto the heater and seriously hurting themselves or worse.

  • Having less clutter, with clearly defined walkways is particularly important for people with mobility and sight problems, who may use a stick or a walking frame to get around.

Good lighting throughout the home makes a difference 

  • Dim or poor lighting can make a person with dementia feel "closed in".

  • They are more likely to feel lost and confused. We all need more light as

  • we get older, but for a person with dementia, it is even more important.

  • Good lighting means that they will be able to find their way around better, and feel safer.

  • Bright lighting will also help navigation in the event of a fire in the home.

  • Use higher wattage light bulbs than you would use yourself.

  • Consider buying some small plug-in night lights or stick-on battery-operated push lights for the corridors or hallways and some high visibility light switch covers to help the person find the light switches more easily.

Simple signs or labels around the home can help with navigation around the rooms

  • Try using picture or word cards/labels around the home to identify rooms, cupboards etc. 

Clear pathway to the bathroom so it’s easier to get to at night

  • Consider using plug-in night lights along the hall.

  • Ensure all exits (doors and windows) are kept free from clutter.

Kitchen Safety

The kitchen can be a very dangerous place for people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia

  • To maintain as much independence as possible, the person may still wish to cook for themselves – which is not a problem provided no dangerous practices have been noticed.

  • It is very easy to accidentally leave the hob on after serving up a meal. However, for a person with dementia this can become a regular occurrence.

  • There is a particular risk if gas is used for cooking.

  • If at any time you become aware that a person is starting to become forgetful around the kitchen (for example, if you find burnt saucepans or oven dishes), KFRS can help by fitting a lockable gas valve as part of the Safe and Well Visit – please call us to book one on 0800 923 7000. We can also fit covers to electrical sockets.

  • You could arrange for meals to either be brought in each day or have a Care Agency come in to prepare meals. 

Reduce cooking hazards with the right devices

  • There are different living devices available, such as automatic cut-offs for cookers (see above). 

  • As part of Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s Safe and Well Visit, we can fit devices, through our partnership with SGN.

  • Using a kitchen timer is a good way of helping the person to remember that something is cooking.
  • Some people with dementia can forget how to use the microwave oven properly, for example, they may forget to take food out of a foil tray.

  • Try to help with very clear instructions about safe use of the microwave or other appliances.
  • To book a FREE Safe and Well Visit – please call 0800 923 7000. 

Keep an eye on their eating habits 

  • Try to make regular checks that a person is eating properly and that food is not left to rot in the fridge or cupboards.

  • Are they coping with cooking?

  • Is food being prepared and cooked adequately?

  • Are they drinking enough?

  • These should be monitored on a regular basis. 

Labelling kitchen cupboards with pictures or text can help with what’s inside. 

  • Reduce risk of kitchen fire.

  • Try to keep the cooker clear and that nothing is left on top of the hob (such as a tea towel, for example).

  • Keep the sides clear.

  • Keep the hob, oven and grill clean so there is less likelihood of a build-up of cooking grease which may start to smoke or even catch fire.

Electrical Safety

Electric blanket and wheat bag safety

  • Remove electric blankets from beds if the person is incontinent - this is very high risk.

  • If the person is not incontinent, an electric blanket may be used. However, it is important to ensure that it has all relevant safety features, such as automatic switch-off at a certain temperature and after a defined time limit.

  • Wheat bags can bring relief and comfort to you when you use them properly, but as with any product involving heat, there is a danger of fire and a risk of injury to you if you do not use it properly.

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and to ensure a wheat bag is not heated in a microwave for too long, or at too high a temperature.

Get plugged in safely 

  • Labelling plug switches with instructions is very helpful such as ‘Do not switch off’ or ‘Do switch off at night’.

  • Label plugs with the name of the equipment it is connected to: such as "TV", "Sky Box", "DVD Player", "Stereo", "washing machine" and "Toaster".

  • Check plugs throughout the home to ensure a good fit in the socket.

  • Where possible, do not use the old multi-plug adaptors as these have a tendency to pull out of the socket when there are several plugs connected to them. Consider replacing them with a standard, short cable 4-plug extension lead (particularly those with the individual switch next to each socket).
  • Never overload sockets. No plug socket should contain more than a total of 13 Amps-worth of appliances. For example, if you have a double wall socket then you can have up to 13 Amps worth of appliances in each socket.

  • If you are using an extension lead, it is simply an extension of the one plug socket, and as such should not contain more than a total of 13 Amps worth of appliances.

  • As part of our Safe and Well Visit, Kent Fire and Rescue Service can fit electrical socket covers so they can only be used by a carer. To book a FREE Safe and Well Visit – please call 0800 923 7000 

Check for warm plugs 

  • Regularly check for warm or hot plugs or sockets, scorch marks, fuses that often blow or flickering lights they may all be indicators of loose or damaged wiring or other electrical problems. 

Electrical appliances and cable safety

  • Frayed or damaged cables - if you find any of these, have them replaced by a qualified electrician.

  • Avoid putting appliance cables under carpets, mats or rugs, as people walking over them will start to wear the protective cable covering until bare wires are exposed, potentially causing a fire.

  • Avoiding using ‘reel’ extension leads indoors if possible.

  • If you do, then the full length of cable MUST be fully unwound and left loosely coiled with plenty of air around it. If left fully wound, the cable may overheat and catch fire.

  • Keep electrical appliances away from water.

  • For example, do not place a vase of flowers on top of a TV set or use an electric fire in a bathroom.

  • Switch off as many electrical appliances as possible at night.

  • Make sure that all plugs are correctly wired and the wires securely contained within the plug.

  • Avoid trailing cables in the kitchen, eg. the kettle cable hanging over the side of the counter. 

Fires and Heating Safety

If an open fire is in use:

  • Ensure that the chimney is swept regularly and is safe to use.

  • Have it cleaned an inspected at least once a year.

  • Ensure that an adequate ‘spark guard’ is always left in place.

  • Even when it would seem the fire has died out.

  • Sparks can unexpectedly shoot out of even a damped down fire and set fire to a rug or carpet.

  • Drying clothes in front of an open fire is a big fire safety risk – Avoid this practice.

  • Ensure all wood, coal and other fuels are stored at a safe distance from the fire.

  • Also, make sure that there is no clutter on or around the fire place.

  • Ensure that chimneys, flues and vents are not blocked and have them checked regularly.

If a gas fire is in use: 

  • Make sure it’s serviced by a Gas Safe engineer at least once a year.

  • If it becomes apparent that this kind of fire is advertently being left on or not used safely, then consider having the gas supply disconnected and install a safer form of heating.

  • Avoid having ‘exposed element’ heaters in the home.

  • Consider buying oil filled radiators with thermostatic/timer controls.

  • Electric heaters should be placed well away from anything flammable, such as furniture, curtains and seating.

  • Think about fitting a guard.

  • These heaters should not be left unattended or left on overnight.

If an electrical fire or heater is in use: 

  • Make sure they are serviced regularly.

  • Think about fitting an extra guard, and keep them a safe distance from furniture and curtains. 

Heating Concerns 

  • If there are concerns about using gas or electrical appliances correctly, contact the gas or electrical company.  

Carbon Monoxide alarms 

  • Any room with gas appliances, open fires or wood burners should have Carbon Monoxide alarms.

  • You can also purchase Gas alarms, which will detect ‘non-burning’ gas – for example, if the gas hob has been switched on but not ignited.

  • Ensure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air in any room where there is an open fire or gas appliance. 

If you smell gas:  

  • Turn off the gas at the meter.

  • Open doors and windows.

  • Call the gas emergency service or 0800 111 999

  • Don’t turn electric switches on or off.

  • Don’t use naked flames.

  • Don’t smoke.

Candle Safety 

Try to remove candles, oil burners etc. and replace with simple ‘push lights’ or torches.

  • Battery-operated push lights can be bought from most big supermarkets and hardware shops and can be stuck onto most surfaces. 

If candles are used: 

  • Ensure they are placed in a suitable container that will prevent the candle from falling over.

  • Always use a container wider than the candle so that any wax spillage will be contained.

  • If large candles are used ensure any delicate wax shell that forms around the top of the candle is regularly trimmed to about half a centimetre above the wick.

  • This will eliminate the risk of the shell collapsing and flowing onto anything flammable nearby.

  • Make sure candles are kept away from curtains, draughts and open windows, and not on book shelves etc.

  • They should be used on a firm, even surface well away from anything flammable.

  • They should not be left unattended and should always be extinguished before leaving the house or going to bed.

Smoking Safety 

Try to discourage smoking if possible 

  • However, for those who do smoke, ensure there are plenty of ashtrays around. Preferably large, heavy ones with a little water in the bottom.

  • Kent Fire and Rescue Service – Safe and Well Visit can help with devices to support people who smoke – call 0800 923 7000 to book a visit. 

Incontinence pads

  • Those who smoke and use incontinence pad have a greater fire risk as these pads can be highly flammable.  

  • Consider obtaining a small fire resistant blanket to place over the lap when smoking. 

Smoking in bed 

  • This carries the highest risk – it is very easy to fall asleep and drop the cigarette.

  • Consider placing a fire resistant blanket on top of the bed and some fire proof carpet or tiles around the bed to reduce the risk of accidental fire.

  • Regularly reinforce the need to extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly.   

Detectors and alarms

  • Make sure you have enough smoke alarms in your home

  • There are specialist alarms available for those with a hearing impairment, which include a bright flashing strobe light by the bedside and a vibrating pad under the pillow to alert people to danger at night when they do not have their hearing aids in. 

  • IMPORTANT: A person with dementia may not be aware of what the sound of an alarm means or they may be frightened by the noise it makes and become confused.

Consider installing a telecare system 

  • This is a smoke alarm provided by a telecare provider, which is linked through a lifeline service.

  • It means that when the alarm sounds due to fire or smoke, the signal goes straight through to the telecare provider, who will then alert the emergency services.

  • This helps to reduce the risk for the person if they are unable to react to an alarm.

  • Other types of alarm can also be run through this system, such as Carbon Monoxide detectors. 

  • IMPORTANT:  Ensure there are adequate Carbon Monoxide alarms throughout the home if there are gas appliances, open fires or a wood burning stove. 

Have an escape plan in the event of a fire

It may be very difficult to explain an escape plan to a person with dementia because of their memory problems. However, there are usually two or three main options for escape in the event of a fire:

Plan A – Getting out via a main exit. 

  • The best way out in the event of a fire would be a main exit - always ensure keys are close by to enable a quick exit.

  • Keep all exits clear of obstructions - there should always be a clear route to all doors and windows.

  • If the way is clear of smoke and fire, get out of the house, shut the door behind you and get to a neighbour’s house in order to raise the alarm

  • by calling 999. 

Plan B – Making yourself safe in a room. 

  • If it is not possible to get out of the house, either because of poor mobility or because smoke or fire is preventing it, then the next best thing is to make yourself safe in a room. For example, if the fire is at night then it would probably be best to stay in the bedroom.

  • Shut the door and place something at the bottom of the door such as a dressing gown or a pillow to stop as much smoke as possible from entering the room.

  • Is there a telephone in the bedroom? If there is a telephone in the room, there is a greater chance of being able to call for help.

  • Dial 999 and ask for the Fire Service.

  • Try to give as much information as to where in the house you are so that the Fire Crew can find you quickly.

  • Press your telecare system button if applicable.

  • Open the windows if it’s safe to do so

  • Shout to attract attention from neighbours and passers-by.

  • Await rescue from the fire service.

  • If smoke is starting to enter the room then try to get down on the floor.

  • The air will be clearer down on the floor, as smoke rises to the highest point and works its way down. 

General Safety Tips in the event of a fire

Do not investigate:

  • For example, if the smoke alarm is sounding, do not go around the house to see where the fire is.

  • If you open a closed door and there is a fire in that room then you are allowing oxygen to enter the room, which will fuel the fire. 

Never attempt tackling a fire 

  • No matter how small it may seem at the time. A fire can get out of control very easily, but more importantly, toxic smoke builds up very quickly and just a few seconds exposure to this smoke or fumes can render a person unconscious.

Get down low

  • Try to get on the floor if there is a lot of smoke in the room/house.

  • The air will be clearer down on the floor, as smoke rises to the highest point and works its way down. 

GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 999 

Night time routine

(either by the person or family member or Carer) 

Shut doors at night

  • Particularly kitchen and sitting room doors and any other rooms which contain electrical equipment. 
  • Consider putting CLEAR LABELS on all doors that need to be shut at night.

Make sure to check that the fire guard is in place, if an open fire is in use

Switch off as much electrical equipment as possible before going to bed 

Ensure windows and doors are secured 

  • Ensuring that keys are readily available in case of an emergency.

  • Consider putting hooks up in appropriate places with clearly marked labels saying: "PLACE FRONT DOOR KEY HERE AT NIGHT" or "LEAVE WINDOW KEYS HERE".

  • It is essential that if windows are kept locked, then there must be a key in all rooms and that all people either living in or visiting the home know where the keys are.

IMPORTANT: It should be noted that people with Alzheimer’s/dementia will often collect up keys from around the house and either hide them, lose them, forget where they put them or just put them in a ‘safe place’ that can never be found again. 

For smokers 

  • Make sure all smoking materials and candles are fully extinguished. If necessary, take them to the kitchen and run them under a little cold water.

  • Empty ashtrays into an appropriate fire-proof bin outside the building before going to bed. 

Kitchen - white goods safety

  • Avoid putting the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher on before going to bed. 

  • Electrical faults can develop and result in fires. 

Contacts 

Kent Fire and Rescue Service

Age UK - 0800 169 6565 

Alzheimer’s Society - 0300 222 1122

Kent Dementia Helpline (24hrs) - 0800 500 3014

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Services - 01474 533990 (Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley) 

Social Care Direct - Adult Social Care Services - 0345 608 0191 

Gas emergency service  - 0800 111 999

      
Connect with us
  • Facebook icon
  • Twitter icon
  • YouTube icon
  • Flickr icon
  • GovDelivery icon
  • Instagram icon
  • Facebook icon
  • Twitter icon
  • YouTube icon
  • Flickr icon
  • GovDelivery icon
  • Instagram icon