Help! Aging Parents was honored in late December–selected as one of Good Therapy’s 2014 “Top 10 Websites for Aging,” they write:
As a self-proclaimed “serious, well-educated cheerleader for helping parents age well,” this blog shares information and insight about issues that affect geriatric parents and their adult children. Susan, the sole author, often tackles everyday issues that seem banal but can become problematic in old age, like swallowing medication or planning dinner events. She writes with humor and candor, and cites input from professionals as well as her “senior” advisers.
As we end the first month of 2015, much of the US is cold and elders understandably remain indoors. If we don’t live with them and are conscientious, we visit as often as possible. An issue that’s definitely “banal” (“ordinary or commonplace”) is the high temperatures at which elders set their thermostats to stay warm. It’s problematic when it’s suffocatingly warm in their home for us, but not for them.
There’s a lesson here–about who’s right and who’s wrong. It can avoid, happily more often than we like to think, arguments with older family members. First, the facts:
The NY Times addressed the issue of elders being cold in its no-longer-published Booming Blog, Factors cited include “a decrease in circulation as the walls of the blood vessels lose their elasticity and the thinning of the fat layer under the skin that helps conserve body heat. And as people age, their metabolic responses to the cold may be slower. Vasoreceptors, for example, may not be as quick to direct blood vessels to constrict to keep the body temperature up.”
Johns Hopkins’ After 50 Newsletter responds similarly to the question: “I’m older and colder. Why?” then discusses Hypothermia. We learn “It doesn’t have to be subzero outside for hypothermia to set in. Research suggests that very frail, elderly people can develop hypothermia at room temperatures as high as 71 to 75 ˚ F! And 50 percent of those who develop hypothermia do not survive, usually as a result of going into cardiac arrest.” This article also has advice about staying warm, especially if elders must go out in cold weather.
Sr, Advisor S.RN adds that especially when she made home visits to those who had COPD, she “had to brace herself,” because their homes could be “so incredibly hot–like opening an oven door.” But they needed that additional heat.
OK. We know the facts; yet there’s something additional that’s important to understand. Reality is not carved in stone. In a counseling class at Teachers College years ago, the professor posed the hot/cold question. Its purpose, to legitimize people’s differing realities. He said something like “You and I are in the same room. It’s comfortable for me. It’s too cold for you. Who’s right?”
If we keep an open mind, we can understand that both are right and save ourselves arguments. When elders are clearly “off-base,” we have choices. We can “pick our battles.” When their “right” is clearly wrong and must be corrected, we most often must correct the wrong.
Here’s to avoiding some arguments and disagreements with our aging parents and the elders we care about.
Related: Tough Talks, Difficult Discussions: The Best Way to Begin
Aging Parents and Arguments: Who Wins?
Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.