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May 27th
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Bathing the elderly, keeping them warm in winter can be problematic

eldercare031411_optBY CAROL ABAYA

Question: I walked into my mother’s room at the Assisted Living residence the other day, and the odor almost knocked me out. The aides told me that my mother (86) had refused to take a shower for two weeks. I’m speechless.

Answer: Even though you live far away, the staff should have alerted you to the problem. It’s a common one, especially during the winter. And the staff should have known how to handle this situation.

Winter is always a hard time of year for the elderly, who are more sensitive to temperatures and their changes. No one likes to take a shower if the bathroom is cold. And having to get out of the shower wet into a cool room can make anyone shiver and be very uncomfortable.

First, ask your mother why she refuses.

Second, make sure the staff makes the room warmer than usual (even 75+ degrees) so your mother is warm. A small space heater can make the room more comfortable.

Third, the water temperature should be adjusted to what is comfortable for your mother (and not the aide). Your mother should test it before she gets into the shower.

Question: My parents (80s) are fighting every day about the temperature in the house. My mother is “too cold,” and my father is “too hot. My mother refuses to put on a sweater. My father constantly turns the thermostat to below 70 degrees.

Answer: Another area where winter can play havoc with elders! A compromise seems to be in order. They might agree to one of the following, or a combination.

Your mother can wear heavier basic clothes, like a sweatshirt and pants. There are some lovely heavier outfits that are not bulky like sweaters.

Or the temperature can be increased to where it is comfortable for your mother, and your father might the wear lighter weight clothes, short sleeve shirts, etc. The only problem with this is that he’ll need a sweater when he goes outside.

Or the temperature can be kept somewhere in between, with both modifying the kind of clothes they wear.


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