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Would you recognise your own front door? New campaign challenges dementia understanding

Familiar objects around the home such as front doors, ovens, telephones, TVs and smoke alarms can be taken for granted by most of us. However, for people with dementia, this is not always the case and these familiar objects can become unfamiliar, so South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) is partnering up with Age Cymru and Dementia Friends in aid of Dementia Awareness Week to raise awareness of this.

SWFRS is taking a positive approach to reduce the risk of accidental dwelling fires, particularly among vulnerable individuals such as those with dementia. The Service has established initiatives to try and tackle this by developing the ‘Would You Recognise Me?’ campaign.

The new campaign demonstrates how everyday household items might become unknown or confusing to a person with dementia, and how carers and family members need to be made aware of this. For example, a sounding smoke alarm in the case of a fire may not be correlated with an emergency to an individual with dementia, and may be confused with a car alarm, a phone or a door bell.

Matthew Jones, Head of Home Safety for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said, "As a Service, we want to send a clear message that a person with dementia may not react the same way as a carer or family member would when it comes to a fire in their home.

"Therefore, the ‘Would You Recognise Me?’ campaign is about raising awareness of how carers and family members can ensure that the individual they care for is safe from the risk of fire in their home and are aware of other possible dangers around them."

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has, in partnership with Newport Public Service Board (PSB), seen the city of Newport awarded the ‘Dementia Friendly City’ status. Each partner has developed action plans that ensure that those suffering with dementia are kept safe in their homes from the risk of fire. This is part of the Service’s commitment to the Wellbeing and Future Generations Act and Safe and Well visits, which look beyond home fire safety, but also slips, trips and falls and smoking cessation.

Rachel Lewis, External Relations Manager at Age Cymru stated, "Age Cymru is particularly concerned about the welfare of people living alone with dementia who may be struggling to cope with everyday tasks. We hope this campaign will help carers and family members to better understand the daily experiences of people living alone with dementia and how to better support them to live independently for as long as possible.

"We would urge carers and family members to find more about the practical solutions or assistive technology that can improve quality of life or support people living with dementia to better manage risks in the home.

"For more information, please call Age Cymru’s free and confidential advice line on 08000 223 444."

Kerry Phelps, Operations Manager for Alzheimer’s Society Cymru in Gwent said: "Well done to Newport Fire Station who have joined the growing number of Dementia Friends in Wales after taking part in an information session earlier this week. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. It aims to transform the way the nation thinks, talks and acts about the condition.

"South Wales Fire and Rescue Service continue to show their support for people living with dementia and their carer’s with their new campaign, ‘Would you recognise me?’, which aims to reduce the risk of accidental dwelling fires and recognises some of the memory loss symptoms experienced by people with dementia.

"Keeping safe is important for everyone but it can be more of a concern when you have dementia, especially if you live alone. There are everyday risks around the home that dementia can make harder to deal with. People with dementia may experience memory problems, such as forgetting to turn things on or off, physical difficulties that can make it hard to use stairs or some items of furniture, changes in what makes people feel comfortable and secure and potentially being confused about using appliances. There are lots of things you can do to reduce your risk and help with some of the problems you might face. By doing so you can stay safe at home and stay living there for longer."

To find out more about South Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s ‘Would You Recognise Me?’ campaign in aid of Dementia Awareness Week, please visit our YouTube channel and follow our social media pages on Twitter and Facebook.