Making a home safer for someone with dementia

An older woman baking at home in the kitchen.

To see someone you know showing signs of dementia, or being diagnosed with dementia can be hard. However, early intervention is the best way to protect their independence and quality of life.

The first step towards living well with dementia is to talk to a professional like a doctor or GP. While no two people have the same experience, identifying the specific type of dementia can help healthcare professionals and families to provide the right treatment and care.

It will also help define the supports the person might need, as well as helping plan for their future.

What is dementia?

First and foremost, dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing. It’s a common misconception that only older people experience dementia. That — and the often gradual progression of dementia — is why it can take a while to diagnose dementia.

Dementia isn’t actually a specific disease, rather it covers a whole range of progressive disorders that impact memory, language, ability to think and to problem-solve. Around 487,500 Australians live with dementia, and almost 1.6 million people are involved in their care. Know more about dementia and the types of dementia to determine the best support for yourself or your loved one.

What do people living with dementia need?

Importantly, a dementia diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean the person has to forego their independence – it might just mean doing things a bit differently.

In the early stages of dementia, many people continue living at home. As the condition progresses, they might need a bit more help with day-to-day activities, such as housework, grocery shopping, paying bills and organising appointments.

Common challenges can include:

  • Taking medication appropriately
  • Eating and drinking regularly
  • Personal hygiene
  • Maintaining their home
  • Safe use of appliances
  • Personal safety – for example, leaving doors open or giving strangers access to the home.

Help with dementia at home

With the right help from family carers and others, it is quite possible for someone living with dementia to remain at home. But, do persons with dementia fare better in their own home? Yes, a familiar and comfortable environment can be extremely beneficial for someone living with dementia.

In time, as circumstances change, the in-home care might need to be ramped up, at which point, you can find Independent Support Workers through Mable.

There are some great assistive technologies too, that can help reduce risk:

  • Timed medication dispensers – to prevent overdosing and to alert patients when medicine is due to be taken
  • Personal alarms – to alert family or carers in the event of a fall
  • Tablets and smartphones – with apps that issue reminders and helps recall tasks
  • Clocks – displaying the day and date as well as the time
  • Phones with oversized buttons – programmed with frequently used numbers.

Dementia home safety checklist

If you do decide to set up care for someone with dementia at home, creating a safe and secure environment should be a priority. Initially, many safety measures may be unnecessary, but as dementia progresses, a person’s awareness of danger and risk can diminish. Tricky as it might be to stay one step ahead, being vigilant about household risks can help maximise and prolong the person’s independence.

Dementia Australia’s safety checklist highlights some key considerations to help you get started:

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 are therefore, 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

  • 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.

Caring for someone with dementia at home

Making the decision to arrange for in-home care for someone with dementia is a big step. That’s where Mable can help. Find independent support workers through the Mable platform, build a great team of supports and help keep your loved one safe at home.


This is a difficult question to answer because the progression of dementia is so varied and the symptoms present differently in different people. The basic question to ask here, though, is ‘Are their needs being met at home?’

If the person’s dementia has progressed to a point where they need more support than you can provide, it’s probably time to start thinking about moving into a residential care facility.

Dementia is a progressive condition, that means it only gets worse with time. The early warning signs of dementia can be extremely subtle, so it is a good idea to keep an eye on anything out of the ordinary, even if it seems minor. This is especially true for adults over the age of 65, but early onset dementia is not uncommon in younger adults.

If there are signs (such as consistently forgetting appointments or losing one’s way in a familiar neighbourhood or taking longer to do tasks that seemed easier earlier), it may be time to see the doctor. Find out other warning signs of dementia to keep track of whether they are worsening. Because dementia presents itself differently in each person, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when symptoms worsen.

Depending on how far the dementia has progressed, the person’s support needs may vary. From simpler, everyday tasks such as gardening or cooking to the more complex ones such as driving to appointments or maintaining good personal hygiene, they could need any or all of these support services. Find out how registering on Mable can help you connect with independent support workers for the services you need.