How to Prevent a Person With Dementia From Opening the Refrigerator

It is common for a dementia-affected person to start rummaging around the home. Sometimes they are not sure what specific thing they are looking for. 

The National Institute of Aging confirms that rummaging aimlessly is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. So do not get mad if you see your loved one searching through a refrigerator. 

There are things you can do to prevent them from opening the refrigerator. I am assuming that you have installed the refrigerator somewhere in the kitchen. 

You can either secure the refrigerator entirely or deter them from going near it. A refrigerator contains essential food items that you might need when hungry. Hence, make sure you have an alternative location where you can store small portions of food. 

5 tips to prevent a person with dementia from opening the refrigerator

1. Put a note on it

People with dementia in the early or middle stages can read well. They can also remember precisely written instructions. A short note on the refrigerator is all you need to deter them from opening the door. 

You can use a yellow legal pad for this purpose. The yellow color is soothing to the eye. And it is visible in both bright and dim lighting conditions. You can also write additional instructions on the note (like mealtime, etc).

I am not sure if putting a note can work on a person with severe cognitive impairment. But you can try and see if it works.  

2. Move the fridge to another room

In some cases, it would benefit to move the fridge to another room such as a pantry or a garage. You can also consider placing the fridge in a locked room

Needless to mention, this could be a major inconvenience for other members of the family. But it could work if you and the dementia-affected person are the only occupants in the house.  

3. Get them a personal mini-fridge 

If your loved one is fidgeting with the fridge settings or places strange objects in the main fridge you should consider getting a mini-fridge for them. A personal mini-fridge in their room will make them feel special. 

Most elderly folks can maintain the mini freezer on their own. They will like the fact that they can now keep their favorite refrigerated snacks in their own refrigerator. 

On the other hand, folks in the later stages of dementia might not remember that they have a personal mini-fridge in their room. They will wander their way to the kitchen. Here, putting a note (something like “use this one, Grandpa”) on the mini-fridge will help. 

Feel free to put their first name on the note. Also, list out the contents of the mini-fridge so they will avoid going straight to the family refrigerator in the kitchen. 

4. Do not leave them alone at home

I get that you want your loved one to feel independent and self-reliant despite the memory decline. But a point comes when living alone becomes a risk to their safety. 

You need to find out if your loved one is engaging in other activities that may turn out to be fatal. Consider hiring a part-time caregiver if your loved one indulges in potentially hazardous activities.  It’s always good to have someone keep an eye on them when you are away at work or school.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada has made available a helpful guide on the subject of dementia and living alone. Do check it out. 

5. Put a lock on it

Locking the refrigerator may seem unkind at first but it is the only thing you can do to stop your loved one from gaining access to the contents of the refrigerator. It will keep them from consuming spoiled or stale food. 

You don’t have to chain down the refrigerator. Locks come in several sizes and shapes. Some don’t even appear like a lock. These locks are designed mainly for toddlers but they are perfectly suited for folks with dementia.


Caregivers often find their loved ones with Dementia searching for something thoroughly and with disregard for the way in which things were arranged. This kind of rummaging behavior is common among folks with cognitive impairment. They indulge in it for a variety of reasons.

In addition to Dementia proofing their room, you also want to safeguard other areas in the home, namely the kitchen. With the tips I shared in this post, you can stop your loved one from gaining access to the refrigerator. I hope the tips help. Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.

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