Why is Mom Always Saying She’s FREEZING Cold, and I’m Sweltering?

If you’re caring for aging parents from a distance or even down the block, have you ever visited them in warm weather and found them sitting in front of the TV all bundled up in blankets?   Mom might even say “it’s so cold in here,” while you’re standing there sweltering?

Sweltering hot room and aging parents.

What the HECK is Going On?

Well, your elderly parents aren’t so unusual.

Here’s a little information to help you understand more.  As our parents, and even we grow older, the fat layer just under the skin, thins down.  The thinner that subcutaneous layer of fat gets, the more difficult it is for them to naturally regulate their body temperature.  The result: it’s easier to get chilled or get overheated, even inside their own home.

In both cases – hot or cold – it can create concerns for us caregivers.

Although a normal adult body temperature lies between 98.7 and 99 degrees, an elderly person’s body temperature can become naturally lower.  It’s a good idea to get a baseline for your parents normal resting body temperature the next time they go to the doctor. Or you can simply take and monitor their body temperature over a period of time yourself – a few days or weeks – to determine what’s “normal” for them at home.

It’s sometimes difficult, however, to get readings if they have dementia, any form of anxiety, or you don’t want to wake them during multiple afternoon catnaps. Patience and explanations can help that. But here’s where things can get a bit concerning. 

If an elderly person’s body temperature drops and stays below 95oF for as little as 15 minutes, they could potentially get hypothermia.  That can even happen when it’s hot outside, like when summer air conditioning makes their home too cold for them, but comfortable for you, other family members, or caregivers. Once an older person reaches hypothermia, they are potentially at increased risk for a heart attack, kidney problems (or even aggravating a pre-existing condition), liver damage or other issues, even if it’s 100 degrees outside (NIH).

On the other side, if their body temperature gets too high (this could even start at 100.4) there’s a potential for heat exhaustion, heat stroke, dehydration, heat edema (swelling around feet and ankles), heat syncope (dizziness and fainting), heat cramps, heart, lung, kidney, and other organ related issues. Some medications can exacerbate their reaction to hot and cold temperatures too.

If you learn that your parent’s normal resting body temperature is slightly lower than 98.7, and you discover their body temperature rises, even slightly, it’s important to call their doctor.  Why? Because even a slight elevation could be a sign of infection, and cause for concern. 

An easy way to start keeping track of your loved one, or parents’ normal vitals, in this case body temperature, is to take their temperature three times a day for one week.  Get a spiral bound book and jot down the date, time, and temperature for each reading.  Try to take a reading at the same time each day. At the end of the week, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s “normal” for your parents.  If you’re working with a paid caregiver, make sure they follow this monitoring practice, too.

To cause the least amount of disturbance for your parents, use one of those electronic thermometers that works as you pass it over their forehead, even at a distance.  Two models are noted at the end of this article. 

It’s relatively easy to keep your parents safe and healthy while they’re living at home.  It takes a bit more work, sometimes, when they’re in a care facility because the facility may not want to take the extra time to do this type of monitoring. You may also have to pay an additional fee to the facility, if you want this work done. 

YouTube Eldercare Success, Why is Mom Always Cold?

Additional information is available on YouTube @EldercareSuccess. The image to the right will get you there.

Links to two electronic non-contact thermometers that we recommend are noted below. 

iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer

This one is inexpensive and has a good accuracy rating. The fact that you can use it without touching the skin is helpful when your parent is sleeping, has dementia, or anxiety issues. 

Berrcom Non-Contact Forehead Thermometer 

This brand has a fever alarm built into the thermometer. You can also keep a record of past temperature readings and even use it to test room heat and surface temperatures.  In addition, it has a large readout area and it’s backlit.

NOTE: With any battery-operated item, I recommend removing the batteries when not in use for extended periods of time.  Batteries tend to degrade and corrode, which can impact the integrity of the product and its use.

If you’re concerned about the initial accuracy of any digital medical device, BP monitor, or thermometer, take it to your local pharmacy or doctor’s office to make sure it’s calibrated correctly.

Disclaimer: Please seek the advice of your own medical, legal, or financial advisors as each person’s situation differs.  Information in this website is not intended to substitute for professional medical, legal, or financial advice. (c) Copyright 2023 CareManity, LLC all rights reserved.

What A GoDaddy Customer Service Rep learned about Senior Dumping

Could this happen to you?

This post is based on a recent conversation I had with a GoDaddy customer service representative that brought to light an issue many of us may not even be aware of.  It’s one that you can find yourself, and your parents, battling when least expected.  You might not even know that it’s happened until it’s too late to fix unless you’re ready for it. What I’m talking about here is something that’s sometimes referred to as “Senior Dumping.” 

The GoDaddy customer service guy’s story.

A GoDaddy customer service representative, we’ll refer to as Jim, recently helped me, via a phone conversation, with a technical issue.  Once finished, Jim explained he was trying to navigate the complexities of caring for his stepdad, while also holding down a full-time job, and was finding it stressful.  His stepdad, who was suffering from dementia had fallen, been hospitalized, and was completing a rehab stay.  

 You can’t come back here!

His stepfather was now ready for release from rehab back to the care facility where he had safely lived for some time. His wife, Jim’s mom, was elated he’d be returning to his care home. However, she soon learned that his care facility would not allow him to return back “home.”

They had a contract, were up-to-date on payments, but the facility still refused his return, citing an inability to care for him.  Jim’s mother became an emotional wreck as she was not prepared to take the hands-on responsibility of caring for her husband’s end-of-life situation – in the middle of her living room.  

So, they brought him home, anyway.

Jim brought his stepdad back to his mother’s house to stay, and, sadly, to go through the process of dying.  He lay in a hospital bed in his wife’s living room with machines whirling and whizzing to provide oxygen and keep him as comfortable as possible.  Frightened and feeling alone, Jim’s mother panicked as she spent the days watching him hang onto life.  Lost and confused, she did not understand why the care facility would not take him back into where he’d been living well for so long.

Meanwhile, Jim was working to stay upbeat and service his GoDaddy customers. After work he’d drive back to his mom’s home to care for her emotional well-being and help with his stepdad’s end-of-life care.  

More Common that you might realize.

Unfortunately, this story is not uncommon, and you might even find yourself in a similar situation too.  This can happen even if you’ve been paying for your parents’ care at some fancy facility.   Such things have happened to the best of us. 

What is Senior Dumping?

Senior dumping is a term used to describe a practice where care facilities refuse to re-admit elderly residents who have temporarily left to be treated in a hospital, or for a rehabilitation stay. 

Can you prevent Senior Dumping happening to your parents?

There are some measures you can take to avoid this happening.  Or, at the very least, help you prepare for what’s next if it does occur.  The three key points are to:

  1. Thoroughly understand all the details of your care facility contract, and capabilities (if you need more help with understanding care facility contacts, send me a note directly through this post or on Facebook at CareManity). 
  2. Keep everyone (family and care facility) informed well in advance of discharge.
  3. Build a fast-action alternative if needed. That is, have another place to take your parent, if they won’t be re-admitted.

The goal is to reduce the possibility of this happening to those you love. This begins well in advance of an accident or issue by having an in-depth understanding of all the tiny trip-points that many care facilities contracts have. Of course, maybe you want to trust the smiling, friendly and “knowledgeable” salesperson who tells you they have your parent’s best interest at heart. Unfortunately, too many of us put our trust in how a facility looks, instead of how it feels to our gut, or smells.  

Prevention begins well in advance of a situation, by learning exactly what your parents have bought into.  If you weren’t part of the facility and contract vetting process, NOW is the time to become intimately familiar with their contract details and “what if” scenarios that might have been excluded.   Knowing what their rights are, can help protect both them and you, from a lot of physical, emotional, and financial distress. 

Keep Communication Strong and Positive

While your loved one is in the hospital, or under the care of a rehab facility, keep their care facility informed of their positive health progress.  Keep a written log of how they’re progressing so you don’t forget either.  This will help you both realistically understand what type of support they might need going forward. Maintaining regular communication with the facility’s management and care coordinator (if they have one) will help to keep your relationship with them strong and positive.  You’re also likely to get some early warning signs of their inability or unwillingness to provide for their safety going forward. 

Managing Their Quality of Care: A Critical Factor.

The quality of care your loved one receives will always be a top concern for you.  Visit their apartment or room while your parents are in the hospital and watch for changes in staff and attitudes.  Rehab stays can last as long as three months.  If you’ve built a friendly relationship with the care facility’s aides, keep those conversations moving forward.   Changes happen quickly and the aides can be your best set of eyes and ears when you’re not physically present.  

Preparing for the Worst: Being Proactive

If you have any concern that the facility will not readmit your parent, plan a course of action well in advance.  In other words, don’t wait until the last minute when that door has closed on you and parent!

Having to make care facility changes under pressure can lead to poor decisions made from desperation.   There are a few tips on how to research care facilities in my Eldercare Success Podcast, Episodes  41 and Episode 43

An Alternative Solution: They can go home (theirs, or yours).

If you plan to take them back to their own physical home, or yours, make sure that everything is safe and ready for their arrival.  The Eldercare Success Podcast, Episode 53 addresses some of these points as well.  

A simple yet proper plan can prevent feelings of guilt, remorse, and being overwhelmed. 

Hospice Care: not every care facility allows Hospice in to provide care. 

If you’re faced with the daunting decision of putting your parent or loved one into the care of a Hospice provider, it’s important to know that not every care facility offers or allows this service on their premises.  If they will not allow you to bring Hospice in to provide care for your loved one, then you may need to bring them to your home, or to a licensed hospice care facility.  This could be another reason that your parent has become a “victim” of senior dumping. 

Finally: Be Aware, Be Prepared.

At the end of my conversation with Jim, the GoDaddy representative, I could tell he was incredibly distressed over the situation that his mother, stepfather, and he was facing day-in and day-out.   It was heart-wrenching to hear his shared story of trying to balance his professional obligations with caring for his mother and stepdad. His story highlights the importance of taking a little extra time at the beginning of your family care journey to discuss the “what ifs” of the road ahead.  

Senior dumping is a reality. As we’ve all been told Knowledge is Power.  I’ll also add that understanding and taking a few extra steps to plan and prepare will protect our hearts and loved ones too.

“Don’t let this happen to you.”  **Act Now**: For more information, visit our Eldercare Success Podcasts and sign up for resource updates at Caremanity.com. Share this valuable information with friends and family members who are caring for aging parents or loved ones. 

If you’d like to listen to this story, go to the podcast Eldercare Success, Episode #63

It’s not always easy, yet you can do this well with a little help.

Discussions about how much things cost can get sticky. Likewise, discussions about your parents’ care can get quite emotional. Discussing the cost of their care with your family or siblings can, when not handled right, lead to heated disputes and broken relationships

Siblings, who are not directly responsible for a parent’s care, sometimes raise questions about how much money is being spent and why.  Their concerns can also be about whether such care can be done better for less. Sometimes, they believe that they could reduce care costs by taking over or bringing your parents home to live with them.

Why have the discussion?

When concerns arise, it’s better to talk with family members about them, rather than ignore them.  Questions can turn into misunderstandings, leading to resentments and then to more negative outcomes. Such issues can damage family relationships and last long after your parents have passed.  Don’t assume you can patch up relationships later. Remember, the end goal is to protect your parent’s well-being, physically, legally, and financially. If your parents are safe and well cared for, you’re on solid ground. However, focusing only on that objective, and ignoring your other relationships, can ruin all your goals.

Getting ready

Before you have any such discussions with family members, you need to be clear on some things, such as understanding why you were chosen over others in your family, or why you agreed to take on such responsibility. An objective self-assessment may be one of the hardest things you can do. Ask yourself if you’re controlling your parents’ welfare for their betterment or for yours? Or both? Whatever your motives are, others will see it. If they believe your motives are self-centered, you may be in for quite a fight.

If your parents are safe and well cared for, you’re on solid ground. Standing on firm ground is one thing.  Heading into a battle is another, and one you want to try and avoid, even if you’ve been at each other’s throats since you were kids.

Before you have that conversation with your sibling(s), take time to organize how you want the conversation to unfold. Knowing in advance what you and they want to discuss allows you to get your facts together. Facts help to counter emotions.

Be prepared to lay out what’s been done, costs incurred, and what’s coming. Be especially prepared, with detailed information about costs. Your siblings may only want to know the big picture.  Getting into the weeds, such as daily costs for things like Depends may be unnecessary, but you don’t want to seem like you don’t know. Think about getting support:  Sometimes, having a competent, neutral party can help with financial guidance and better explain the what and why details to your siblings.  While you’re still the one responsible, an outside expert can help everyone make better decisions, if needed

Having the discussion

Do not assume what their motives are. Listen to your siblings’ questions and try to understand their feelings. Watch their reactions during your conversation.  They may be driven by their own fears or misunderstandings about the situation. Any emotional backlash on your part will only invite angry and defensive responses.  Remember to stop, breathe, and think before replying to their questions.

Listen and refrain from responding too quickly:  Let them express their concerns and feelings. If tears or emotions start to run high, try to stay calm and composed.  Remember your goal is to work towards a positive outcome, not to win an argument. No matter how emotionally charged, it’s necessary to handle any conversation with intelligence and appreciation for their perspectives. As such, it’s a good idea to handle any conversation with patience and intelligence. Although decisions are often made by emotions, they are validated with facts. Again, the end goal is to protect your parent’s well-being, physically, legally, and financially. 

However, you want to understand why you are being challenged. You’ll need this information to frame further discussions. Importantly, you need to figure out if their motives are well-meaning or selfish. That is, are they more concerned for your parents’ welfare, or for their own.

If their intentions are well meaning, they may simply be challenging what they don’t know. If you’ve been managing your folks’ care for some time, you already know how exhausting and time consuming it can be.  It’s important to explain (without whining) how the past weeks, months, or even years have gone for you.  If there has been an impact on your personal life, career, and finances, it’s time to get that out, too. Explain, in detail, what’s been done.  

The discussion, at this point, should be about their condition and how much care they need right now.  Not being day-to-day involved, they may not be aware of your parents’ current and growing medical and care needs.  Now is the time to bring that out. Push through their denials by referring to what medical experts and assessments have revealed. Also, discuss your parents’ needs going forward, against what finances they have, and what it will take to keep them comfortable through their final days. Again, remember to clearly (and patiently) counter emotions with facts.

Lastly, agree to give updates, if you and they agree that such details will be helpful to keep things clear.

They may be challenging you because they think there are better ways. Stay open-minded about alternatives and other approaches to what’s best for your parents’ care.  This means putting any ego, pride, or self-investment aside. If you’ve been doing this alone, you may have missed out on better ways to do things.  If you desire to control things, remember that your way is not as important as doing what’s best for your parents. Now is the time to get their suggestions and solutions. One way to get this input is to lay out the care challenges you have been facing along the way. Don’t automatically shut their ideas down, but carefully weigh, with them, the pros and cons of their ideas.

Once discussed and mulled over, if it becomes obvious that they are right, prepare to make adjustments and test out their suggestions.

They may be challenging you because they can and want to contribute more. Most of us want what’s best for our parents and others we love.   Listen to how they think they would manage the same situations. If all is working well, and your siblings want to play a bigger role in providing care, then create a plan together where you can share this responsibility.  You can still be their primary fiduciary as noted in any legal documents.  However, you can share the emotional and physical care.

If your sibling insists on wanting to take over, explain in detail the complexity and responsibility involved in elder care. It’s not just about managing finances, but also about ensuring your parents’ physical and emotional well-being.

If you want to find ways to divide and share more care responsibilities, you might suggest a “trial” period that would not disrupt your parent’s living situation.  You and they might even enjoy spending more time with your sibling(s). This could help relieve some of the time you spend caregiving. This new co-support relationship might even bring everyone closer. 

If their reasons for challenging you are not about your parents’ best interest, (ill willed), you may have to take different approaches. They may be focused on what’s best for them or simply interested in preventing you from having control. Their interests may stem from fear of losing out (parents’ love, inheritance, income,) an emotional need to fix a parent relationship, or from past power struggles with you.

If this is the case, (hopefully not) you may be able to deflect or work to stop their actions by hiring an attorney, mediator, or other professionals your parents put their trust in.  An attorney, with experience in these matters, can guide you through what options you have and what actions are needed, if any.  In some cases, good attorneys can step in and diffuse emotional challenges.  Your family’s situation is likely not the worst they’ve seen.  Discuss what to expect next so you’re not caught off guard by a sibling’s replies or actions.

If it ALL goes South (Negative)

Just because you’ve been entrusted with control over your parents’ affairs and well-being, doesn’t mean it’s absolute. Siblings who don’t get satisfaction from you, may seek it elsewhere. There are some legal ways to challenge a Power of Attorney or Trustee designation.  Also, parents who are of sound mind can sometimes be convinced to change their minds. Right or wrong, it’s their decision. 

In most cases, you’ll likely win the contest, if winning means keeping control. You may lose that sibling relationship, forever, though.

In some cases, you may lose. If your parents’ care remains the same or gets better, the loss hasn’t been for them. You should comfort yourself with that. If not, you need to decide whether to keep fighting or start your grieving process.

Afterwards (Positive)

Now that you and your sibling have an understanding and agreement and are working for the same outcome, don’t shut the door and go back to your old ways.  Keep the lines of communication open.  It’s easy to fall back to the old ways.  Find things to laugh about, remember, and celebrate the parents who loved and protected you for so long.

Focus on your parent’s well-being and safety.  Keep your siblings focused on your mutual goals.  Stress that you both love your parents and want the best for them, as they did for you over the years. 

Just remember: when caring for an aging parent, every day counts.

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