Fire Places and Heaters

Sitting by a fireplace with an enclosed glass screen and watching the flames can be relaxing and safe – for both you and the person for whom you care. But fires and burns can occur, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning, when open fireplaces, wood stoves, and space heaters are used improperly. Then, too, a person in the late stages of dementia may tragically mistake kerosene or other liquid fuel for drinking water or soda, especially if it’s been poured into a bottle.

The behaviors and skills of someone with dementia are constantly changing; what’s safe one day may not be safe the next. At some point in the disease, you’ll need to limit independent access to fireplaces and heaters. Depending on your system, you may need to consider alternative heating sources – for your safety and theirs.

Fireplace Safety

Keep in mind the following tips for safer fireplace and stove use:

  • Install tempered glass doors.
  • Have flues professionally cleaned annually.
  • Use only with a fire retardant carpet or floor nearby.
  • Don’t leave the person alone with an open fire.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it.
  • Lock up matches.
  • Use a large fire-retardant tray to catch ashes for safe removal.
  • CAN YOUR ASHES. Many people believe ashes are safe to discard if they feel cool to the touch, but buried embers can smolder for days. Houses have burned down when ashes were thrown away in plastic or paper bags or in cardboard boxes – even 1 2 days after they felt cool to the touch. The fire department recommends storing ashes in a heavy-lidded metal container outside the home and dousing with water and waiting 4 days before disposal.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms on each floor and make sure they’re working!

Safety for Electric Space Heaters

  • Only use a heavy-duty extension cord if a cord must be used because a serious fire can result when using a regular extension cord. Consider installing additional outlets.
  • Cords are easily tripped over, so make sure to place them along the walls, not into the walking areas.
  • Discontinue usage immediately if the person uses the heater for unsafe activities such as drying clothes.
  • Make sure there is a minimum of 3 feet of clear open space around the heater.
  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor and make sure they’re working!

Safety for Kerosene Space Heaters

  • Consider an alternative heating source (e.g., an electric baseboard) that does not use liquid fuel or have a cord that is easily tripped of. You should lock up kerosene in a detached shed and if you want to fill it, do it only outdoors.
  • Crack a window for ventilation. Discontinue use immediately if the person uses the heater for unsafe activities, such as drying clothes.
  • Make sure there is a minimum of 3 feet of clear open space around the heater and do not leave the person alone with a lit space heater.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms on each floor and make sure they’re working!