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Dementia Proofing Kitchen Knives.
Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 3:26 PM
Joined: 7/31/2021
Posts: 12

Recently my wife cut the lock off the refrigerator using a large chef's knife. That lock relied on a tough nylon strap holding the doors closed. That was sufficient to stop a child from gaining access to the refrigerator but not particularly resistant to a sharp knife. The damaged lock was subsequently replaced with a twisted steel cable lock.



Today I noticed the same knife setting out on the counter. I am the only person in the household that uses that knife for cooking and I *never* leave it laying about. I started to clean it and put it away and noticed the edge was very dull -- another thing I do not let happen to my knives.

I checked the lock on the refrigerator and, sure enough, there were cut marks in the plastic sheath.  Of course a knife is not going to cut a steel cable so I am not concerned about her bypassing it that way.

What i am concerned about is her using the knife for other things. I've read some horror stories about a person with dementia using a knife in a very dangerous fashion. One woman even tried to use one as a comb! There is also the deadly force risk if her hallucinations ever encompass me, our daughter, or a neighbor as an existential threat. Just today my wife told me she thought the lady next had shot an killed me.

So, it is time to lock away the kitchen knives.  However, knives have to be available to prepare food so just locking them in a safe like I might do with firearms or medicines is not very practical.

Has anyone here faced a similar problem and how did you solve it?

Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 3:48 PM
Joined: 9/10/2021
Posts: 271

oh, my!   No, we don't have that, but just a suggestion:  Could you carry the key with you and put them in a small lock-box, or install a lock on a kitchen drawer.      Would it be easier access, although a bit inconvenient, to lock them in the car, rather than a safe?   Any place to hide them - and just get them out when she isn't looking?
May flowers
Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 5:21 PM
Joined: 4/9/2021
Posts: 333

There are small countertop safes that might be easier than a big safe to use, some have a keypad.
Stuck in the middle
Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 6:32 PM
Joined: 6/4/2017
Posts: 1850

Huckleberry Finn's father did all his cooking with his pocketknife.  I hope he at least wiped it on his shirt between uses. 

I think in your position, I would go to a sporting goods store or gun shop and buy a small safe designed to hold a pistol.  Some open with a key pad and some use a palm print - lay your hand on it and it opens.  Police officers and others who want their pistols safe yet readily available use them.  

Knives with rounded points are a little less dangerous than those with sharp points.  

Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 8:32 PM
Joined: 12/11/2018
Posts: 848

You would be surprised at how much cooking can be accomplished without sharp knives. For the last 2 years we have had only 2 butter knives to do any cutting needed. That’s it. And my austerity strategy paid off when he pulled one of them out and waved it at me threateningly last week. Imagine if it had been a sharp, pointy and serrated thing, even a small steak knife. 

Dementia and sharp knives don’t mix. Even before he started hallucinating which led me to disappear even potential weapons (screwdrivers, hammers, scissors and definitely knives), DH sliced his finger using a steak knife as the wrong tool (like your DW) his case he tried to use it like a bottle or can opener and was standing there dripping blood on the counter, just looking at it. He didn’t know what happened nor what to do about it— surprised and scared me as I saw how much worse that could have gone. 

No knives here. But if there were, they’d be locked up and hidden as the members suggested. — I would not let her see where you put the lock box if I were you. My DH has gotten into many things I thought were secured the first time. 

The time comes, pretty early with dementia, when our LOs have to be constantly supervised and not be left alone long enough to get into that level of mischief uninterrupted (it was during early mid stages for us). Sounds like it is time at your place. I’m sorry she has fixated on this, but it will be one of many adjustments we caregivers need to make ASAP, to safety proof the home when dementia is present. 

Here are some safety tips and a checklist from the “Solutions” tab at the top of this page, that I found helpful. Good luck! It sounds like your DW is a very determined lady. Work-arounds will be your best friend*1xef6nd*_ga*mtexotkxmtm2ms4xnjuymze5mju0*_ga_9jtewvx24v*mty1mjmxoti1my4xljeumty1mjmymtiwms42ma..&_ga=2.120427784.1692908077.1652319254-1119911361.1652319254*1inftfi*_ga*MTExOTkxMTM2MS4xNjUyMzE5MjU0*_ga_9JTEWVX24V*MTY1MjMxOTI1My4xLjEuMTY1MjMyMTQ4NC42MA..&_ga=2.90092699.1692908077.1652319254-1119911361.1652319254

Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 9:54 PM
Joined: 5/9/2022
Posts: 35

DANG Linuxhitman!!! I'd be scrrrd!!!!

Yea, put the knives where she can't find them. As a matter of fact, take away anything sharp, heavy and shiny...jeez I am scared for you! Lock box or small safe sounds like a great idea. 

On that note, her behavior patterns are suggesting she's thinking you're hiding something from her and it's making her have anxiety about it. Maybe try distracting her with some sort of seek and find game? Like, "Oh, honey I was afraid you were going to see the present I bought for you so I hid it somewhere in our room." Buy her a gift and put it somewhere she can find it? 

Otherwise you could pre-prepare meals every couple of days so you don't have to get a knife so often. Like cut up everything in advance and package it so all you have to do is pull it out and start cooking it?


Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2022 6:27 AM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 3539


Ugh. I am sorry you are dealing with this.

Why are you locking the fridge? Is she eating unsafe foods? Or just wreaking havoc in general in the space? When my friend had her mom with dementia at home, mom was constantly rummaging in the kitchen. My friend installed magnetic locks on most of the drawers and cabinets and keep most of her refrigerated things in a second fridge in the garage leaving mom access to snacks she could manage. Her mom was triggered by locks she could see, so they were careful not to use anything overt. : 20 Pack Magnetic Cabinet Locks Baby Proofing - Vmaisi Children Proof Cupboard Drawers Latches - Adhesive Easy Installation : Baby

I might try something like this for the knives.

You mention "hallucinations"- but to my ear it sounds like you are describing a delusion. In a true hallucination she would actually, see, hear, taste and/or smell something that isn't there. My dad had both. Ironically, his hallucinations were benign as a rule-- he heard kids playing upstairs past their bedtime and once cautioned me not to sit in a chair that was occupied by one of his golf buddies that had dropped in. That was freaky. 

Dad's delusions were sometimes darker and sometimes ridiculous. In the hospital his attending neurologist was the secret leader of the free world to for which the fellows, residents and med students held rallies nightly on the 7th floor and the guy in the bed next to him was keeping cats in the room against the rules.

Often the darker stuff, like your wife's story that you'd been shot were the result of a conflated memory. Dad used to watch mom's crime dramas which triggered these kinds of thoughts. He'd tell me about having been kidnapped and murdered the night before when I visited. He couldn't tell me if he ate breakfast, but on some level these shows stuck with him and triggered delusions. I put parental controls on the main TV to keep him away from programming that triggered this- so crime dramas, the news, and even the weather channel as he believed all hurricanes, wildfires and blizzards were just on the other side of the door. Just a thought.

If she is having hallucinations, medication might help with that. I would suggest a geriatric psychiatrist for medication management. A lot of dad's behaviors were anxiety driven, so relieving that anxiety helped.


Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2022 11:09 AM
Joined: 5/12/2022
Posts: 1

Oh dear, I’m sorry to read all these warnings but also grateful.  My mom likes to help dry the dishes and sometimes she hits me with the serving spoons while helping!  So, recently, I’ve washed and dried the knives myself because I’m afraid of her poking me with it!  

I hope you can find the best solution to keep everyone safe. 

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2022 3:55 PM
Joined: 7/31/2021
Posts: 12


A lock box could work if I can find one of the right size. Thanks for that suggestion. I am also looking at a roll up carrier designed for knives. A bit of a pain to have to bring it out and put it back but not too bad given the alternative.

Using folders in place of traditional kitchen knives is another possibility and, in fact, I do sometimes use a small 2" folder when cooking. I'd still have to hide them away but it is not difficult to lock up even a large folder and the edge is better protected in both directions

For the time being I am wrapping up the knives in a towel and putting them someplace (I hope is) safe. I work from home so I can manage a moderate level of supervision during the day to reduce the probability of accidents.



Locking the refrigerator was a last recourse -- so far. When she had free access she was going thru a almost gallon of milk every day.  The problem was not the consumption so much as the waste. She would fill the largest glass she could find, drink about half or less, set it down, and forget where she put it.  So she then went back to the refrigerator, got another large glass, and repeated the cycle. I regularly found glasses half full of congealed milk.

We tried hiding the large tumblers to force her to use smaller ones. That didn't stop the waste but did cut down on it. We later tried splitting the milk up into single serving sized bottles holding about 8 oz apiece. Unfortunately she would just grab three or four, drink one, and hide the rest with predictable results.

Then she started filling up just about any container she could find with milk and squirreling it away.  When I caught her trying fill a bottle that originally held TSP (trisodium phosphate), I realized stricter measures were necessary. That's when I started locking the refrigerator and doling out the milk about 10 oz at a time. She now only goes through about a liter to a liter-and-half a day with little being wasted.

As for the hallucinations, she does claim to have seen some of the things she "remembered". The lady next door comes into the house regularly and takes her "channel changer". The lady across the street (who has been dead for six years) stole her pearl ring while visiting yesterday. The lady next door came in the house and shot me.  Also the last time she went to the ER the PA wrote "visual hallucinations" on the continuity of care document. From her behavior I have no good reason to doubt she really does believe she saw the things she described.
Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2022 6:28 PM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 3539


It sounds like you do have your hands full. 

Since the PA noted this as hallucinations, she might respond well to a low dose of an atypical antipsychotic since her hallucinations are upsetting to her.

Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2022 6:26 AM
Joined: 2/26/2016
Posts: 259

We have a five year old child so my wife only leaves out the bread knife on the counter. It has a sawtooth edge and a round dull end so no one is going to get hurt. I use it to cut vegetables and other things and it works great. However it can also saw through plastic.
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