Safety in and around the home

Dementia affects each person differently. However symptoms such as confusion, memory loss and disorientation are usually present, and problems with mobility and co-ordination may also affect safety. It is important that family, carers, friends and health professionals assist the person with dementia to feel and be as secure as possible. 

Safety in the home

The best living environment for a person with dementia is one which helps them to be as happy and independent as possible. Familiarity is important for a person with dementia. The home environment should help them know where they are and to find where they want to go. Changes in this environment may add to confusion and disorientation.

General safety tips

  • Arrange furniture simply and consistently and keep the environment uncluttered
  • Remove loose rugs and seal carpet edges that may be safety hazards
  • Replace long electrical cords on appliances with coiled or retractable cords
  • Check the battery of any smoke detectors and that the alarm is loud enough
  • Replace more dangerous forms of heating, such as bar radiators, with safer heating options such as column heaters
  • Install safety switches throughout the home
  • Easy to read clocks and large calendars will help a person orient themselves

In the kitchen

  • Reduce the temperature of water from the hot water tap using the thermostat
  • Check appliances, such as heaters and toasters, to make sure they do not present any safety hazards
  • Automatic cut offs for hot water jugs and other appliances are recommended
  • Dispose of or store and hazardous materials such as kerosene
  • List of contact names and numbers in large print placed by the telephone

In the bedroom

  • Electric blankets and hot water bottles can both be a safety hazard for a person with dementia and therefore are better removed
  • Nightlights in the bedroom can help a person find their way out of the room at night

In the bathroom

  • Hand-held shower hoses allow a person to direct the flow of water as desired
  • A shower or bath seat allows a person to be seated while bathing and eliminates the need to for a person to lower themselves into the bath
  • Install hand rails at bath, shower and toilet to avoid falls
  • Reduce the temperature of water from the hot water tap using the thermostat
  • Dispose of or safely store all medications
  • Nightlights in the hallways and in the toilet may be useful to assist a person to find their way to the bathroom at night

Safety outside the home

Some people with dementia may become disoriented and get lost in unfamiliar, or even in previously familiar surroundings. Therefore it is important at all times that they carry appropriate identification, including their name and address and an emergency contact number. An identity bracelet is ideal.

Safety tips:

  • Check catches on gates
  • Keep paths well swept and clear of overhanging branches
  • Remove poisonous plants and dispose of hazardous substances from sheds and garages

Safety checklist for the home

It may be useful to go through the house room by room to assess for any safety hazards. This checklist may help.

Access to the home

  • Steps
  • Path

House – general

  • Is the house cluttered?
  • Is lighting adequate?
  • Is floor covering non-slip?
  • Check doors, windows, heating

Living area

  • Chair heights
  • Protruding furniture
  • Kitchen
  • Floor
  • Flammable material
  • Taps
  • Electrical and gas equipment
  • Kettle
  • Poisons
  • Cupboards
  • Drainage in floor