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Feisty Lady with Dementia

(27 Posts)
Chestnut Sun 19-Sep-21 09:08:40

In a bungalow on our site (6 flats) lives an elderly lady in her 80s whose dementia is getting bad. She can't remember things we've just spoken about and struggles to understand things too. So it's impossible to have a conversation or explain anything, she just forgets straight away. She lives alone and seems to get by on an everyday level, walks to the local shops with frame and looks after herself. She has an estranged son and some distant relatives, who are going to try and refer her to the doctor for testing and reach out to the son. The problem is that she is VERY feisty and VERY independent, so any intervention is going to be very difficult.

The thing that concerns me in the short term is that she sits in front of the TV with an open radiant fire plugged in and with flex trailing. This is in the middle of the room and about a foot from her legs for warmth. She falls asleep like this, and if a blanket or dressing gown fell on the fire while she was asleep she would go up in flames. I can't see how we can advise her of the danger and persuade her to find an alternative, she won't take in what we're saying and she won't remember what we've said. I am very fearful she will either trip over the flex or go up in flames now the winter is coming. How do we deal with this lady who as I said is extremely feisty and independent but also lacks the mental capacity to understand anything.

dragonfly46 Sun 19-Sep-21 09:13:26

Could you maybe as a concerned neighbour give Social Services a call.

Septimia Sun 19-Sep-21 09:13:55

I don't have answers for most of the problems, but some of the danger from the fire might be mitigated. If it isn't already one of the type that switches off automatically when knocked over, maybe it can be exchanged for one.

Obviously that won't stop her tripping over the flex, but would stop a subsequent fire or direct burns to her, and won't necessarily prevent things falling on it catching light.

Elegran Sun 19-Sep-21 10:04:37

Could the fire mysteriously "go wrong" somehow so that it had to be replaced and a different kind of heater bought? I don't know whether you have access to said fire, or how you could nobble it so that it wouldn't start up, but if that were possible, it might work. As someone has said, Social Services might help - perhaps there is some regulation about radiant fires that they can invoke.

trisher Sun 19-Sep-21 10:37:44

It is interesting to me how much memory we actually need to function every day. My mother in her 90s had significant memory loss but still lived a happy independent life. She did begin to write down things she knew were important so she could pass them on, but a lot of stuff was forgotten.
As far as the fire goes are you living in private or rented accommodation. If it is rented it might be an idea to speak to your landlord about an approach from them.
Would one of the distant relatives buy her a better and safer heater as a birthday present?

silverlining48 Sun 19-Sep-21 11:16:40

These accidents can and do happen so you are right to be concerned. I remember one particular case which was horrific, so if this fire can be changed fir a safer one it really should be.

sodapop Sun 19-Sep-21 12:23:47

I think you do need to give Social Care a call about your concerns with the fire. It's certainly a real health and safety issue not just for the lady concerned but for others as well. There are times when it's necessary to intervene and I would say this is one of them.

Soozikinzi Sun 19-Sep-21 13:44:19

I bet the local fire service would call to fit smoke alarms for her and check out the situation?

grannyactivist Sun 19-Sep-21 13:50:46

Soozikinzi I agree. When my mum became more or less bedridden I got the Fire Brigade to come and do a safety audit as my mum is a smoker. They were absolutely brilliant and even provided her with special bedding.

That was about five years ago, so the cuts may have impacted services since then, but it’s worth a phone call.

BridgetPark Sun 19-Sep-21 18:29:05

I would find a reason to pop in to see her. Explain these old radiant fires have been condemned, that you will take it away for her, as you have something that's just as efficient, spare, in your own house. Maybe you could ask a couple of neighbours to put in and buy her something more suitable. They aren't overly expensive, and you could all rest easy she is at least as safe as you can leave her.

Chestnut Sun 19-Sep-21 23:15:41

The problem is that explaining anything to her is impossible. She can't seem to take it in. And she can't remember anything the next day anyway. She is also so very independent, you have no idea! If anyone tried to take the fire away she would get very feisty. If I called anyone like Social Services she might get very shirty with me. But someone will have to wrestle that fire away from her somehow.

Shandy57 Sun 19-Sep-21 23:34:28

How very sad she is living alone with this. I've just watched 'The Father' where Anthony Hopkins is acting the part of someone with dementia.

Are you able to contact any of her relatives? Or try and get her to the doctor to be assessed so the Memory Clinic will assist? It is obviously time the family came to help to ensure her safety. My 84 year old aunt has been begging an estranged daughter to visit her friend for two years, she has finally turned up, and her mother doesn't know who she is.

Witzend Sun 19-Sep-21 23:51:46

Shandy57

How very sad she is living alone with this. I've just watched 'The Father' where Anthony Hopkins is acting the part of someone with dementia.

Are you able to contact any of her relatives? Or try and get her to the doctor to be assessed so the Memory Clinic will assist? It is obviously time the family came to help to ensure her safety. My 84 year old aunt has been begging an estranged daughter to visit her friend for two years, she has finally turned up, and her mother doesn't know who she is.

That could have happened anyway with dementia. One week my mother’s eyes would light up when she saw me coming. The following week, they were just blank - I was merely a ‘nice lady’ who made her cups of tea and brought her chocolate. It happened that suddenly.

OP, it’s likely that the poor lady will refuse to cooperate with SS and they can’t force their attentions if a person has not been deemed to lack capacity, but informing them anyway will do no harm - they don’t need to tell her who it was. Is the place rented or owned? If rented, could someone official call to do an electrical safety check (a legal requirement for landlords anyway) and either disable the fire or tell her it’s unsafe and remove it, without involving you at all?

V3ra Mon 20-Sep-21 00:12:03

Our local fire brigade have always been happy to do house calls and fit free smoke alarms.
They'd far rather do that than attend a fire.
Why don't you contact them, explain the situation, and ask if they'll come and give all your flats a check-up?
I bet she'd be happy to see a couple of charming fire officers at her door.
(I was when they came up my road one day!).

welbeck Mon 20-Sep-21 02:15:22

you can contact social services and share your concerns.
they will not tell her who contacted them.
and anyway, she wouldn't remember.
do it for your own sake.
imagine how you would feel if she was injured by fire or trip hazard.
let us know how you get on.

Chestnut Mon 20-Sep-21 08:56:34

It's a private flat, she rents from a leaseholder (company in London) and we (the other leaseholders) are the landlord. I did ask for a safety visit from the Fire Brigade about three years ago and they put a smoke alarm in for her. Maybe I'll ask them to come again and mention the radiant fire so they can bring that up and suggest an alternative. I mentioned relatives in the OP, they will be making attempts to reach out to her son.

travelsafar Mon 20-Sep-21 09:05:24

SS need to be called urgently for this poor lady. The heater needs replacing with alternative heating maybe a heater fixed to the wall so she wont have a trailing flex to cause a problem.
Defo contact fire services too, they may flag her up to SS as urgent. This is so sad , growing old is not for the faint hearted!!!

ExDancer Mon 20-Sep-21 09:13:01

If you can get to the fire without her seeing you, just remove the fuse from the plug. Buy her a new one as a gift, or get her son to buy it (?) they are not expensive. You can get a little fan heater for a tenner and they have an automatic cutout feature if anything is dropped on them.

Granniesunite Mon 20-Sep-21 09:18:33

Lots of good advice also could you try to contact her GP yourself as a concerned neighbour. She needs immediate help to prevent a tragedy.

Shandy57 Mon 20-Sep-21 09:30:01

So sorry Chesnut, I was doing two things at once, apologies. I hope the family respond quickly and the fire brigade will visit and suggest an alternative fire.

Chestnut Mon 20-Sep-21 19:11:59

So a three pronged attack through her doctor, Social Services and the Fire Brigade, with her estranged son dragged into it whether he likes it or not, ha ha.
I cannot get to the fire without her seeing by the way, and if I started meddling with it she would want to know why! It would require someone official to remove it and provide an alternative. And of course making her understand why we are interfering with her living room setup will not be easy! She is fiercely independent.

Witzend Mon 20-Sep-21 19:22:21

Chestnut, that’s why I suggested someone official, like a landlord’s contractor, perhaps under the guise of doing legally required electrical safety checks. You would not then appear to be involved. If the fire was then disabled, or taken away, could her relatives be prevailed upon to provide her with something safer?
Can you contact the landlord, to explain that there’s a serious fire hazard?

Chestnut Mon 20-Sep-21 19:29:31

Witzend her landlord (the leaseholder who owns the flat) is not someone to ask. I had an ongoing battle to get electrical safety checks done which are required by law. I know for a fact the electrics are unsafe and not up to current standards but he got his own electrician to issue a pass certificate. The council accepted it even though I told them it was fake. They don't want to know as long as they have a pass certificate. It's like issuing a fake MOT certificate! I am absolutely disgusted with both her landlord and the council. I'm not getting involved in her flat's electrical safety issues, I've done what I can. But the open radiant fire is a different matter.

V3ra Mon 20-Sep-21 19:38:10

My brother had a major house fire because of faulty electrics.
Something else to talk to your local fire brigade about? 😕

Witzend Wed 22-Sep-21 21:41:41

Chestnut

Witzend her landlord (the leaseholder who owns the flat) is not someone to ask. I had an ongoing battle to get electrical safety checks done which are required by law. I know for a fact the electrics are unsafe and not up to current standards but he got his own electrician to issue a pass certificate. The council accepted it even though I told them it was fake. They don't want to know as long as they have a pass certificate. It's like issuing a fake MOT certificate! I am absolutely disgusted with both her landlord and the council. I'm not getting involved in her flat's electrical safety issues, I've done what I can. But the open radiant fire is a different matter.

In that case I would refer the matter to both your local councillor and your MP. The council should absolutely not get away with this.