Supporting customers with dementia

13 May 2024
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An older woman with grey hair in her kitchen. Text on circle: Dementia Action Week 2024

Customer posed by model

We’re proud of the work we do to support people with dementia and over the years, we’ve helped thousands of people through a variety of partnerships and projects. As part of Dementia Action Week 2024, we’re highlighting how one of our engineers supports customers living with dementia as part of their day-to-day job.

More than 944,000 people in the UK have dementia, mainly affecting people over 65 – one in 11 people over the age of 65 have dementia in the UK. Symptoms can include problems with memory loss, confusion, spatial awareness, understanding and decision-making. These symptoms mean that maintaining a safe and warm home can be a real challenge for people living with dementia.

Paul is an Emergency Gas Responder from the Central region of our southern network and visited Ms M in late April following a report of a smell of gas in her kitchen. Straight away, he knew there was a potentially vulnerable customer at the property as a carer answered the door. Paul got to work immediately, completing all his checks and making sure the property was safe.

While he was doing this, he paid close attention to what he could see and hear and was thinking about what additional services Ms M may need. Paul understood Ms M’s dementia was quite advanced as when he was talking to her, she didn’t appear to understand what Paul was talking about and seemed confused. She would also repeatedly ask Paul who he was when he re-entered the room.

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A smiling man crouching next to some rocks

Paul spoke at length with Ms M’s carer and asked if she may have accessed the cooker and left it turned on by accident. The carer advised this was a possibility. Paul knew that our locking cooker valve could keep Ms M safe in her home while her carers could still cook her meals.

Our locking cooker valve can help people with dementia or autism retain their independence at home and provides reassurance to friends, family and carers.

We fit the simple safety device, for free, to your existing gas cooker pipework. When the valve is locked, the gas supply to the cooker is stopped, removing the risk of the cooker being unintentionally turned on or left on. It gives peace of mind to carers or relatives that the cooker can’t be used when they leave the house or the room and the carer or relative can easily turn the valve on using the key when the cooker is required, enabling the household to continue to use their gas cooker safely.

By installing a locking cooker valve in Ms M’s home, it meant she could keep her cooker in her property so she could still enjoy cooking, while reducing any cause for stress or anxiety.

Paul said: “I knew about the service we offer for the locking cooker valves as I’d seen it in our winter customer training briefs. It always gets mentioned and I knew through the briefings it would help.”

Paul wanted to speak to Ms M’s family to make sure they knew about the situation. But he found out that she no longer had any family support, and her only support was through her care company. Paul escalated this through the care company to make sure the right steps were in place to get Ms M’s gas back on quickly.

He used our Careline app to ask our dedicated vulnerable customer team to provide her home with an accessible carbon monoxide alarm. The team also spoke with Ms M’s care company to understand how we could further support her.

Paul isn't the only engineer who goes above and beyond to make sure our customers are supported. In April 2024 alone, our frontline teams referred 801 customers for extra help, requesting 1,447 services – the highest ever number of referrals made in April. This included 13 locking cooker valve referrals as well as 610 vulnerable households who were added to the Priority Services Register.

By registering for this free service, vulnerable customers will receive extra help if they’re without their gas supply either in an emergency or because of planned work. We can provide electric heating and cooking appliances or even alternative accommodation to keep them safe and warm while you’re without gas. It’s used by utility companies to make sure people living with dementia are offered extra help when its needed.


Partnering with charities

We’re working with Alzheimer’s Society to relaunch their Dementia Friends initiative at depots across our networks, making sure all our people can spot the signs of dementia and offer them our support. With 2,484 of us already Dementia Friends, this week we will be inviting more of our colleagues to become Dementia Friends and learn more about helpful ways we can support people living with dementia. 

We’re also partnering with West Sussex charity Dementia Support to provide energy safeguarding services at its purpose-built Sage House community hub in Chichester. From this hub, the charity delivers integrated dementia services to people living with the condition across the county. 

We’ll provide energy safeguarding support through the charity’s free-of-charge Wayfinding service, which delivers both practice advice and emotional support to help people living with dementia make sense of the journey ahead. 

Our programme with Sage House will not only support people with dementia, but it will also support other extremely vulnerable customer groups to access key services and live in safe and warm homes, including unpaid carers of those with dementia and older people.

Find out more about this partnership here.