By Kaye Swain
Last month, I wrote about being proactively prepared for extreme weather issues and possible outages, whether due to broken heaters and air conditioners or due to power outages from major storms. Of course, those are not the only weather issues many of us caregivers deal with when caring for our aging parents, are they?
I remember 30 years ago when my mom was the caregiver for her parents. My grandfather had reached a point in his life when he was always cold. My mom was so wonderfully patient and long-suffering. She would go over for hours to help them, while roasting to death because they routinely kept their house at about 80+ all year round. And, of course, summer was the worst since, even when the sun went down, the temperatures frequently stayed high!
While I often follow her great example for caregiving, I'm afraid I'm not quite that good about suffering and I'm very grateful that, in this day and age, I don't have to be. My senior mom and I live in a two story house. She has now reached the point of constantly freezing, just like her dad before her. Wonderfully for me, she is very thoughtful of me and realizes she can always add more clothes when she is cold and is very good about that.
Because of physical limitations, her bedroom is on the first floor and mine is on the second. As we have learned, they aren't kidding when they say, "Heat rises!" Couple that with the computers in my bedroom, and my room is the hottest in the house while my senior mom's room tends to be the coolest in the house. We've learned to work around that though by compromising on the temperature - keeping it cooler than she might prefer and warmer than I like all year round. Then she adds more sweaters and I keep one - two fans going almost non-stop in my bedroom when I'm there. It doesn't work perfectly but it does work.
If you are thinking of moving or remodeling due to caregiving needs, I would highly recommend a heater/air conditioner set-up like I used to have - with the ability to set the first and second floor to different temperatures. That can be such a big help when dealing with multigenerational caregiving that includes our aging parents and our changing body needs. (The cars that offer dual sided controls are another big help for eldercaregivers! We don't have one but we've rented them before and they really are quite useful!)
I would also recommend adding ceiling fans if your budget permits. Otherwise, free-standing fans are quite handy. Because we also stay busy babysitting grandchildren (can you tell I'm in the throes of the Sandwich Generation - multigenerational caregiving), I look for fans with the blades totally enclosed. They are much safer for little hands - and even for senior parents who might be dealing with memory loss and forget how to handle a fan.
I dearly loved my grandfather but he was not the greatest at compromise. I'm very blessed to be caring for an aging parent who DOES do a wonderful job of "sharing the load" with me and I'm already sharing that concept with my own kids and grandparents. And I'm also very grateful for plenty more options now than they used to have, including portable and ceiling fans, multi-area heaters and air conditioners in homes and cars. How about you? Do you have any suggestions for dealing with the issues of senior parents who are freezing while you are roasting? Or vice versa? We'd love to hear.