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Fire Safety Tips when Caring for a Senior with Dementia

Senior woman with dementia cooking in kitchen

For seniors with dementia that still live alone, the home can be a very dangerous place. That’s because dementia not only causes memory loss, it can also disrupt parts of the brain that control reasoning and problem-solving. As a result, one of the biggest risks facing an elderly person with dementia is fire. If you’re taking care of a senior with dementia, fire safety might be near the top of your list when it comes to caregiving concerns. To help ease your mind, follow these fire safety tips from the pros.

The Link Between Dementia and Home Fires

There are several reasons why someone with dementia is more likely to start a fire in their home. For one, because the disease can affect their reasoning and problem-solving, they could turn on the stove and start a fire, but then not be able to react to it. Other reasons why seniors with dementia are at greater risk of getting seriously hurt in a house fire include:

Regressive Behaviors

Many forms of dementia cause regression, which can place a person’s mind back to childhood. When that happens, your senior might start acting out events they experienced as a child, like setting the trash on fire when mom or dad weren’t watching.

Cigarette Smoking

A smoker with dementia could easily leave a burning cigarette on a flammable surface and then not act appropriately once they notice it’s caught on fire.

Forgetting How to Use Appliances

Because of regressive behaviors, a person with dementia might remember how to turn on their new stove’s burner, but then forget how to turn it off if a fire starts. Or, they might try starting their gas fireplace but then not remember how to proceed as flammable gas builds up inside the home.

Escape Route Confusion

Once a fire starts and smoke accumulates inside their home, a panicked senior with dementia can literally forget how to escape, especially when a main route is blocked.

Creating a Safer Home Environment

Start by walking around your senior’s home and looking for any potential fire hazards. Then, make sure to implement these fire safety measures:

Disconnect the Stove and Oven

Many home fires caused by those with dementia start in the kitchen, so consider disconnecting your loved one’s stove and oven. It might mean hiring a meal service, but your peace-of-mind will be well worth the expense.
Disable the gas fireplace. Any sources of open flames, including gas-lighting fireplaces, should be eliminated.

Remove Candles and Space Heaters

In accordance with a no open-flame policy, also remove candles that your loved one might try to light. If they use a space heater, find a model that will automatically shut off within a given amount of time, when tipped over, or if it gets too hot.

Cover Surfaces with Fireproof Material

Notably if they smoke, cover all flammable furniture and other surfaces with fireproof material.

Practice Escape Routes

Cognition comes and goes for someone with dementia. If you practice fire escape routes enough for every room, during an actual emergency their instinct may take over and guide them to safety. There are even fire escape route picture books for those with cognitive impairment available through your local fire department or the National Fire Protection Agency.

Check Smoke Alarms

According to FEMA, a working smoke alarm in the home can reduce one’s risk of dying in a fire by up to 60%. Make sure your senior has multiple alarms positioned strategically around the house.

Alert the Local Fire Department

It’s also a good idea to alert the local fire department that there’s an elderly person with dementia living alone at that address.

When explaining any fire safety precautions to your senior don’t treat them like a child, or be surprised if they put up some resistance. Another option you have is to hire a professional in-home caregiver to provide general supervision for your loved one.

In-Home General Supervision for Seniors with Dementia

Trying to keep a senior with dementia safe in their home can be very challenging when you have your own household to manage or live far away. When you need a break, call Cranberry Home Care. Our highly trained and carefully screened dementia/Alzheimer’s caregivers will provide the 24-hour supervision your loved one deserves to keep them aging comfortably and safely in place right where they want to be.

In addition to general supervision, our fully licensed caregivers can also perform in-home services like personal hygiene, light housekeeping, meals, medication reminders, companionship and transportation. To learn more about dementia, or to schedule a FREE, in-home care consultation with Cranberry Home Care for a senior in Southeastern Massachusetts, please visit: www.cranberryhomecare.com now!

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