Stop dad interfering with storage heaters


I’m not sure anyone can help but I’m asking for advice on the off chance.

My 91 year old dad has moderate Alzheimers which interferes to a degree with his short term memory and to learn to use unfamiliar appliances (though he manages his TV well enough). He also seems able to memorise phone numbers.

He lives alone and I visit for a few hours 2 - 3 times a week, during which I mostly do his cleaning and laundry. A carer visits each morning who makes his bed and tidies up his flat (he will not accept help or advice with personal hygiene - another issue, but not my concern here).

I believe many of the issues I’m having with him are down to stubbornness (not wanting to relinquish control to his “little girl”) but his not wanting to take responsibility for any consequences either.

At the moment, the biggest problem we’re facing with winter coming is he keeps interfering with heaters. He has burned out three new electric heaters that were bought for him within the last two years, and last year I had to turn his electric storage heaters off at the mains when he changed the settings so they were running all day and he ran up bills in excess of £800 a month in quick succession! He does not have nearly enough money to sustain that. The flat is off gas.

I have tried setting the heaters and leaving him post-it notes and even pre-printed “Do Not Touch” stickers which he simply ignores, after promising not to interfere with the settings! He then denies that he even touched them (I know the carer wouldn’t, unless she was told to)!

I know you can buy lockable covers to put over sockets and covers for gas fired radiators, but I’ve just come off an electricians forum where they state covers for storage heaters are too dangerous as they cause the appliance to reach very high temperatures.

Changing the storage heaters is not an option either as he rents.
Has anyone else had this issue and did you resolve it?

Sadly, the deepening dementia means that notes and instructions may be pointless.
I know it comes over as stubborness, but this, and the hygiene issues are all the result of the dementia.
The “very elderly” become very “self focussed” and are unable to see how much others are trying to help and do things for them.

If he is turning up the heaters, is he feeling cold all the time?
If so, is he eating enough warming food, and wearing enough clothes?
Would an extra care visit in the evening help?

The more help he accepts, the longer he can stay in his own home, but it would be a good idea to start considering what will happen to him as his condition worsens, and investigating residential care for him. The best homes have the longest waiting lists.

Do you have Power of Attorney?
Does he have over £23,000 in savings? (The rough limit for Social Services care funding).

Is he claiming Attendance Allowance?
Is he claiming exemption from Council Tax?

Hi Mandy

Your poor dad, sounds like he loves to tinker with things and that he is bored and in need of distractions to keep him off them.

Would a hobby kit to tinker with help him? or a couple of old clockwork type things to tinker at?

This is sounding dangerous and what else would he be tinkering with and how?
He’s got a compulsion to tinker, I don’t think any amount of notes will stop that, it is a part of his condition. That’s why there are twiddle mats, books and mitts to keep hands busy with something to do. Hence suggesting a tinker kit - model making, meccano type kits, jigsaw etc.

Ask yourself - Is your father safe to be on his own? Does he need another assessment?
Do you need to do soul searching and look at Plan B of your father being under 24/7 supervision in a residential home with friends and activities? For the safety of himself and the flat?

My dad was lost to cancer but he tinkered with things as a self taught DIY and engineer, so I know that if he had alzheimers he would have been tinkering not only with the dials but with the operational mechanisms too which doesn’t bear thinking about.

Perhaps try a sensory box

It is possible to have retrospective SmartPhone App-controlled devices fitted: with remote control from any location These can be used to set max and minimum temperatures, times of day etc. Occupation Therapy should be able to help with this, but if not, try any decent electrical contractor.

Thank you so much for this post.

My son has severe learning difficulties, he lives alone with carer support, but the carers only see what they want to see!
When he comes to me for a weekend visit, very often staff bring him to my place, and I take him back to his flat on Sunday. Sometimes it’s roasting hot, although no one has been there all weekend!

He has a combi boiler, but it’s probably 20-30 years old. It has two dials, one for hot water, one for central heating.
Do you (or anyone else reading this) know if anything similar is available for gas boilers like this?

Hi Mandy

I had to do a double take when I read your post, I thought I had stumbled upon my own post from many years ago ! I also remember storage heater sagas and numerous stand alone heaters of all varieties mostly burning out through over use, myself and carers melting as we walked in.

I can remember a couple of the more expensive models had a feature where you could set a program and then effectively lock it to avoid tampering with it. They do exist so worth doing some research . Sadly I never cracked the storage heater problem and also ended up with huge bills. All I can think of is removing the main fuse and changing the source of heat to manual heaters that you can control.

I’m not aware.

Try a google search for landlord forums for boiler/heater control?

I know a lot of rented properties eg shared houses the boiler is in a locked cupboard and the landlord has the key and the landlord or letting agent sets the heating control for the seasons and timers for each day of the week.

or a new boiler that has smart controls that you can control for him.

That’s just me guessing!

Yes: we have bought a terraced cottage in a small village nearby for our son last summer, and we have spent the last six months renovating it. We ripped out the horrid old heating system, rubbish windows, bathroom and kitchen, and even the rotten floorboards, mainly using local tradesmen.
Its now looking brand new. The village has no gas, so we opted for modern storage heaters and a new immersion water boiler: these have all remote controls via smartphone etc: storage heating is moving forwards and is quite competitively priced

compared with the more complex heat exchange pumps.