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                                                                                           Help Sheet 3.6

Living with dementia - how the environment, technology and you can help

This help sheet provides information            Person Centred Response
on how assistive technology and            All of us have different needs and respond to both the environment
environmental adaptation may be            and other people around us in different ways. It is critical that any
used in the kitchen to support the         decision to change the environment or use technology follows
independence, safety and security of       a person-centred assessment, where the perspectives, needs and
people living at home with dementia.       choices of the person with dementia are understood and respected.
Appliances used in the kitchen, such as    What works for some people does not always work for others. It is
the stove, toaster and microwave oven,     important to continue to provide ongoing evaluation to ensure that
have the potential to cause harm if not    any technology or strategies used for supporting independence and
used in the manner intended. Serious       safety in the home, remains meaningful to the person and match
injury or death can occur as a result of   their needs and abilities.
electrocution or fire. Cleaning products
and some food products can also be
                                                Environmental Suggestions
                                           There are a number of simple things that can be tried to make the
                                           environment more supportive to both the person with dementia
                                           and those around them. Only change what needs changing, and
                                           keep the kitchen as familiar as possible.
                                           • A split door or barn style door, while providing a person
                                             with dementia with an opportunity to see you, also assists with
                                             preventing access to the kitchen area during busy times; and
                                           • Labels or signs on cupboards, or removing cupboard doors,
                                             eliminate the need to remember what is in the cupboard.

                                                Simple Technology Suggestions
                                           • Kettle – most kettles are now sold with automatic cut off
                                             switches that prevent the kettle from boiling dry. Some kettles
                                             have the added safety feature of not being able to switch on
                                             unless the minimum required water has been added. Retractable
                                             or spiral safety cords also reduce the risk of appliance cords on
                                             a bench top getting in the way.
                                           • A Shallow Depth Fridge may make finding contents in the
                                             fridge easier.
     Cupboards with glass panels           • Oven Guard – this is a protective cover placed over the oven
     allow cupboard contents to be           door to act as a heat barrier and prevent contact burns. These
                       seen easily           covers can be attached to the oven door with magnets or Velcro

                                Training to care for people with dementia
    and are constructed from fire                        • Plug-In Gas Alarms plug
    resistant material.                                    directly into the power point and
•   A Lockable Cabinet that can be                         detect escaping gas or unignited
    mounted on the wall or placed                          gas. The detectors emit an alarm
    inside a cupboard out of view                          to alert the householder. There
    is useful for storing household                        are both LPG and Natural Gas
    cleaning products that are                             alarms available for purchase
    poisonous. They can be purchased                       with instructions for placement of
    from most larger hardware outlets                      the alarm based on the type of gas
    or homeware stores.                                    in your home.
•   Circuit Breakers provide short
                                                                                                                    Finding Products
    circuit and over-current protection.
                                                                 Advanced Technology                                For information about specific
    Safety switches monitor the flow
                                                                                                                    products and where to get them, see
    of electricity through a circuit and                         Suggestions
    detect a problem which may pose                      • The Vigil Electric or Gas                                Professional assessment is advised
    a risk to personal safety and turn                     Stove Isolation System is a                              before any changes are made or
    the power off. It is worthwhile                        stove isolation system that will                         products purchased. To find the best
    to review if your home has these                       automatically switch the stove                           solution for your needs and to avoid
    installed. If not, your local energy                   off after 20 minutes. There is                           unnecessary expense, contact the
    supplier may be able to assist.                        a bypass switch that allows                              Independent Living Centre.
•   Appliance Locks can be used on                         relatives or carers to use the
    a microwave oven, fridge, oven,                        stove for up to two hours. A                             Further Information
    or other household appliances.                         licensed gas fitter is required for                      Technology and the way individuals
    The locks can be useful if there                       a gas stove fitting and a licensed                       relate to it are constantly changing.
    is a concern that the person                           electrician is recommended for                           For further information, a dementia
    with dementia is not able to use                       electric stoves.                                         friendly home checklist and to
    household items safely. These                        • Induction Cook Top – these                               view other Help Sheets about
    products can be self installed and                     cook tops are electronically                             how the environment, technology
    purchased from hardware stores                         operated and produce heat only                           and you can help, please see
    or stores where children’s safety                      within the cooking utensils and                 or
    products are sold.                                     not on the hotplates.                                    call 1300 275 227 (1300 ASK BCS).
•   Velcro Strips which are double                       • Wireless Smoke Detectors use a
    sided and adhesive may be                              base unit linked to a telephone in                       For further information and to discuss
    successful in securing appliance                       the home. They are designed to                           your individual needs and:
    doors. For the best results the                        alert the resident and a call centre                     • assistive technology or home
    Velcro should be similar in colour                     if smoke is detected.                                    modifications, contact the Independent
    to the product so that it blends. If                                                                            Living Centre at
                                                         • Automated Home Systems use
    possible, place the Velcro discreetly                                                                           or 1300 885 886;
                                                           wireless or ‘hard wiring’ systems.
    to reduce its visibility to the person                                                                          • dementia, contact The National
                                                           They can be programmed
    with dementia.                                                                                                  Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500,
                                                           to operate curtains, lights,
                                                                                                                    or Alzheimer’s Australia at
•   ‘Mag Lock’ – this discreet                             heating, and security, as well as
    magnetic lock system can be                            monitoring the use of equipment
    used on drawers and cupboards                          such as the cooker, the fridge
                                                                                                                    For information about local care and
    or anywhere in the home. It was                        and water usage. The system can
                                                                                                                    support services, including respite
    designed to be invisible, with the                     identify if the cooker has been
                                                                                                                    for carers, phone Commonwealth
    locking component fitted to the                        left on for an extended period,
                                                                                                                    Respite and Carelink Centres on
    inside of the cupboard or drawer,                      monitor when the resident has
                                                                                                                    freecall 1800 052 222*. For emergency
    while the magnetic key operates                        left their home or when they have
                                                                                                                    respite support outside business hours,
    the lock from outside the drawer. It                   returned. It notifies a carer, or
                                                                                                                    phone freecall 1800 059 059* (*Calls
    can be installed on wood, plastics,                    call centre, if there are changes
                                                                                                                    from mobile phones are charged at
    laminates and ceramic tiles and                        to a person’s regular routine that
                                                                                                                    applicable rates).
    does not draw attention to the fact                    indicate they may be unwell or
    that the cupboard is locked.                           injured.
The information on this help sheet was produced with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and                    Help Sheet 3.6 | Nov08
Ageing under the Dementia Initiative. The views expressed on this help sheet are not necessarily those of the Department.

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