The Thermostat Wars


Dad was always a little guy – short and thin.  Mom was the same height as dad, but didn’t appear so skinny.  Dad was always sensitive to the cold and in fact changed jobs early in his career because his previous job required him to work in the cold.  But, my memory of the clash of body temperatures between my parents goes back to when they were approaching their 50’s.

Dad would be cold and push up the thermostat.  Mom would suddenly find herself hot and comment on how hot it was.  Dad would say “Change of life!” and laugh.  Mom would get annoyed and push the thermostat back down.  Long after mom passed menopause, the thermostat wars continued.

As they got older, dad was more and more likely to keep the room temperature above 75 degrees.  Often he wanted it to be set at 80 or even higher.  Mom was having health problems and the doctor wanted her to keep the room temperature at 75 degrees or lower.

About 5 years ago I visited mom and dad at their southern mobile home.  Mom kept reminding dad to keep the thermostat at 75 degrees though he claimed to be cold.  I was just there for a couple of weeks on that trip as I was using vacation time.  Mom and dad had separate bedrooms by then as dad went to bed early and mom was always up for the 11 PM news.  Mom moved into the 2nd twin bed in dad’s room so I could use her bed during my visit.

One night I woke up so hot I thought I would pass out.  I got out of bed when I heard mom and dad talking in the living room.  It was about 1 AM.  Apparently dad had awakened cold and got up and pushed the thermostat up past 80 degrees.  Mom heard him but didn’t realize at first what was happening until she felt the heat.

I got up to check the thermostat and see why it was so hot.  It was about 82 degrees!  Mom was just pushing the thermostat back down.  She yelled at dad that if he kept doing that (apparently he had done it before), she would go back to the house in the north and leave him alone in the mobile home in the south.

Mom knew what I was just coming to understand.  Dad couldn’t live on his own at all.  His dementia was already so bad that he needed help with the activities of daily living like getting his meals.  Dad knew also that he needed my mother and so he tried to go along with her decree that he not push up the temperature.

I learned to keep my suitcase on top of the heat vent in the bedroom where I slept those 2 weeks. (That essentially closed off the heat into the room.)  I realized that in the future when I planned to visit them for several months in the south I would have to have my own place.

The following year I stayed in another mobile home in the same mobile park.  Often when I visited in the morning I would find that mom and dad had the heat on and the home was already hot inside.  Meanwhile in my mobile home, I was running the air conditioning!

Now that mom has passed away, dad lives alone in his assisted living unit.  He keeps the heat in there set at about 80 degrees or warmer.  I can’t visit for too long as the room is too hot for me.  I can’t convince him to go out except when I take him to a restaurant for lunch.

Yesterday when I visited dad it was 84 degrees in his room.  As I was about to walk him to the dining room, he went back for his heavy flannel shirt.  I reminded him that we weren’t going out.  “I know”, he said, “but I feel a little chilly.”

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About letstalkaboutfamily

I am a retired and was the primary caregiver for both my parents before they passed. I have children and grandchildren. This blog is an attempt to connect with other caregivers and share ideas and experiences. I hope you will let me know what worked for you if you had an experience similar to mine. The main issues I am going to talk about are elder care, death and dying, assisted living, family relationships and hoarders and hoarding. Other topics will come up as I address the issues and my relationship with other family members.
This entry was posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Assisted Living Facility, Caregiving, Dementia, Elder Care, Eldercare and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Thermostat Wars

  1. terry1954 says:

    after working so many years in assisted living and nursing home facilities, i would work up a severe sweat, as the rooms were so hot. walking back into the hallway was as if someone had switched the air on. the problem is that as we grow older and become less active, our circulation goes down hill and we get colder much more often. even now at my age, 57, i can already not do as i used to. wear shorts in early spring, or sometimes i even wore them in the winter. i will go out in public sometimes with a sweater on while young people are wearing shorts and flip flops. i guess this is the price of becoming more aged.

  2. Terry, that’s true. I am less active too, and dad is even more so. I’m glad he can control his own heat and I can control mine!

  3. this one made me laugh. my mom and I do this same dance all the time. Last weekend it was 90 and my nieces and I were practically ready to pass out. Mom was walking around in her favorite heavy Cape Cod sweatshirt. Aaah good times! I am glad that you have this time with him, sweaters and all. Beth from Middlescapes.com

  4. Thanks, Beth. I guess it is a pretty common “game” families play. We each have our own internal thermostat that we try to keep satisfied, I think.

  5. dennis teel says:

    my mother turned 88 in october,for the past two years,she keeps her apartment at 80 or 81 degrees all summer long,claiming that if it’s any lower she’s chilly or cold.i don’t understand this,even though i try to.the problem is that i can’t stay and visit,as i can’t tolerate the heat for more than a couple minutes.when it’s in the 90’s outside and 81 inside it’s just too much for me.i kindly expalin to her why i can’t stay,but she acts as though she’s offended and doesn’t understand.my mother has no form of dementia or ahlziemers but does have sleep apnea.i thought she’d understand and if not turn the heat down,at least not be offended.but i was wrong.she doesn’t understand why 81 degrees makes me suffer.she turned down the heat only once while we visited and she nearly froze at 78 degrees//and in reality,it was just beginning to become comfortable(for me) at that stage.if she’d left it at 78 i could’ve tolerated being there for an hour maybe.truth is,i left there a half hour ago and while sitting here at home i got on the pc and googled her problem and here i am//my mom lives in the same apartment complex,in fact she’s in the apartment right next door to me and yet i can’t visit her for more than a couple minutes due to this problem./she can’t visit me,as my place is always too cold for her.looks like we’ll be meeting at walmart from now on.

    • Dennis, Unfortunately, your problem is more common that you think. My Uncle was the same way before mom and dad got to be so bad. He was older so got there first, i guess. His mobile home was 86 degrees when we visited and he was wearing a sweater too. Mom and dad kept theirs over 80 and it iwas difficult tor their friend to visit as well as for me to visit. Some older people just can’t regulate their body temperatures and to keep that 98.6 degree normal temperature inside they seem to need almost as high a termerature on the outside! At least hou live close enough to check in for 5 minutes to be sure she is ok and then talk to her by phone. Good luck!

  6. Susan says:

    Does anyone have any suggestions for me?? My 90 year old mom and I live together. I have been in menopause for 12 years and have frequent hot flahes. We have been fighting over the thermostat for the last 3 years. She wants it set at 82 and refuses to compromise. I have tried to reason with her, reminding her that she can put on more clothes to get warmer but I can’t very well strip down naked to get cool! Last year, I bought a locking thermostat cover to keep her from being able to access the thermostat. This year, she took a hammer to the cover and broke it just so she could raise the temp! What do I do now?? She’s literally roasting me out of our house and we argue about it daily!

    • Susan, I wish I could help you. Mom had the same problem with dad for years. Maybe you could put a room heater in your mom’s toom to raise the temperature just in that one room. I also covered the room vent in my parent’s mobile home when I stayed there to keep the heat from coming out ( and opened a window since it was 75 degrees outside). Another idea might be to talk to her doctor to see if any medication would improve her circulation.

      I welcome more suggestions from my blog readers too!

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