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.

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