Dementia affects over 800,000 people in the UK, with numbers estimated to reach over 1 million in the next decade. This debilitating illness impacts the brain and body in a number of ways, including judgement, sense of time and place, behaviour, physicality ability and the senses. As a result, people affected by dementia may not be as safe in their homes as they once were.
Understandably, most tenants with dementia want to live in their own homes for as long as they can – but this becomes increasingly dangerous as the illness progresses, this being said independent living is still entirely possible. It’s all a case of identifying, understanding and mitigating risks. Home office statistics state that the risk of dying in a house fire is more than four times higher than the national average for people aged 80 or over, and people aged between 65 and 79 – when the effects of dementia generally begin – also have a higher than average rate. These statistics indicate the importance of protecting our ageing population, with those living with dementia even more so.
Social Housing Best Practice
The first and most important step in safeguarding vulnerable adults – particularly those with dementia – is to undertake a thorough risk assessment. Under the Equality Act 2010, providers of social housing have a responsibility to not place any residents with a disability under unfair advantage. In order to comply with this legislation, special attention must be paid to higher risk tenants – who’ll require a higher grade of protection.
For more information on undertaking risk assessments, please see our Fire Safety In Social Housing eBook.
Safety in the Kitchen
Did you know that 62% of fires in the home begin in the kitchen? Utilising one’s kitchen becomes extremely risky for elderly tenants with dementia, whose illness can impact both their sensitivity to temperatures or smell and their ability to make sense of everyday household appliances.
Safeguarding Adults with Dementia
As the most dangerous room in the house, social housing providers must take steps towards protecting those with dementia from incidents that may occur in the kitchen. It’s easy to imagine how a person whose memory is impaired could forget about heating a pan or leave the hob on for too long, so it’s crucial that systems are in place to minimise risk.
Wired Heat Alarms
It may seem obvious, but it’s more important than ever that social housing should contain the best possible fire detection devices – particularly for individuals with dementia. The activities that we undertake essentially by default – such as switching off the stove or unplugging the toaster – are often the first things to go when dementia sets in, greatly increasing the risk of fire in the home. A highly effective and intelligent heat alarm is an essential component of a safe home for people with dementia.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Unclean hobs or a lack of adequate air supply in gas cookers can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home. Those living with dementia are far more likely to forget about these safeguarding measures that many of us have introduced in our daily lives, so ensure that an adequate carbon monoxide alarm system is in place.
Interlinked Alarm Systems
We’ve established that a kitchen which will be occupied by a tenant with dementia should contain a fire alarm and a CO alarm as the minimum. Using wireless technology, these products can be interlinked to create a network, so that if smoke or CO triggers any alarm in the network, it activates any other network alarms and ancillary devices. This provides the best possible warning to those who may be unable to rely on a standalone alarm. Assisted living solutions like a Strobe and Pad can be wirelessly linked with smoke and CO alarms, and are specifically designed to provide additional protection and warning should a fire break out. Dementia is a distressing illness which can have a deeply debilitating impact on those affected. When providing social housing for those individuals, it’s crucial to ensure all possible safety measurements are in place.
For more information on maximising fire safety in social housing for those living with dementia and other vulnerable tenants, download our free eBook below.