How do you keep an elderly person warm, safely?


Our 95 yr old mom has the heat up to 90 to keep warm. Anyone else visiting her can't tolerate the heat and electric heaters are out of the question. Any ideas?

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pfontes16, great to see you again!

Sunny, you raise a very insightful issue - that of improper nutrition. I've noticed this myself but it took me a long time to make the connection. I think low hemoglobin levels and/or anemia are major factors. I've noticed being warmer after eating meat.
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I have encountered cases where the person is freezing and really needs the heat to be high. I'd try to determine why and then adjust to her needs. There was a period where I was REALLY cold natured. I wanted the heat up to 80, when others were complaining that it was too hot. As it turned out, I was not eating enough and my blood was down in nutrients. I had lost a lot of weight and needed more calories. That helped and I stopped feeling that way.

Another cause of feeling very cold can be medication. My dad stays cold due to some meds that he takes. Trouble is that we can't convince him to add layers of clothes. He just wants the heat turned up. So, we tolerate it and bump the heat down, when he's not looking. lol

My LO who has dementia, started out with her heat on 90 too. She could not feel the heat. She would turn her heat on 90 when it was 90 degrees outside. She could not process it. We had to put a plastic protector with a key lock on the thermostat. She adjusted fine. I think her body was cold due to not eating enough too, but, that changed, once we took on her care.
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Here in Maine it's mighty cold at times. Lined pants are great - Blair & Haband have great affordable lined clothing- paired with sweatshirts over t-shirts. My sister bought my father a heated mattress pad cover for his bed - it has auto shut off and never gets hot enough to works GREAT. We purchased flannel sheets from LL Bean...pricey,,,,but the flannel from Portugal is EXCELLENT, thick quality and washes like a dream. Definitely worth the extra cost.
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Just to lighten the seriousness of this subject, some years ago my sister and I went to a Christmas party held by one of the nurses with whom she worked. My sister and I were generally always warm, sometimes having to rush out of our parent's home when we visited in the summer and the heat was still on.

So we thought we were generally pretty warm people. Her friend, however, was menopausal, and compensating. She did so by turning the heat down so much in her house that my sister and I were shivering so much we had to put our coats on. It hink she had it set on 50 degrees or something like that. And this was in Michigan, in the typically cold winters we had about 30 years ago.

So there's an obverse of being too cold and needing more heat.
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There are some additional options, in terms of clothing and accessories.

Is Mom still wearing dresses, as some women do even as they age? Can you introduce her to sweat pants? Heavy duty ones are even better. Same with sweatshirts, or wear two at a time (I do). I also wear leg warmers, especially when I shovel snow. Since they're elasticized and conform to the legs, they help trap heat in more than another pair of slacks or sweats.

My father has flannel lined jeans and trousers that really keep him warm. If I can find time, I'm going to make some flannel pant liners for me. I did that years ago, and wore the flannel top underneath my sweatshirts. It really helped keep me warm, especially during winter when I was outside.

Finding good quality flannel might be problematic though. When fabric manufacturers switched to Chinese products, the qualify of flannel plunged. Although there were still good 100% cotton flannels, most of it in fabric stores was just cheap junk - too much sizing, thin fabric, and more like cardboard than flannel.

I have an overflowing closet and several boxes of material, so I still have a stash of good, warm flannel. I've used some in the past to make comforters, which I inserted into flannel duvets. I sent those with Mom and Dad when they went traveling. And duvets over blankets are another option.

Heavy duty socks, such as for hunting, will help keep her feet warm. Cotton vs. nylon underwear also helps. A warm scarf around her neck makes a big difference and seems to create a literal windbreak between the head and neck and lower body.

Fleece throws or blankets underneath a person can also be very helpful. We've gotten a dozen or so from charities soliciting money. The one provided by our local electrical utility is the best. You could also make one by just buying the fleece and hemming it.

For some reason, I've found these work well for sleeping when placed underneath, rather than on top, of the person. I use them to keep my back warm when I'm sitting. I'm going to do the same for Dad.

An electric blanket, just to keep warm while sitting, is an option, but I'm not partial to these unless there are automatic shutoffs, as there is with the really good mattress pad I bought for Dad last year. It keeps him warm at night, even with the window open (all winter!).

Afghans and throws I crocheted years ago also help when sitting; if they have a lot of designs with open spaces, they don't trap air as much as solid ones. That's where the comforters and quilts I made years ago take over. I only used cotton batting; synthetic batting loses air over the years and collapses, then it's not helpful for warmth.

One of my as yet unrealized plans is to make something like the old fashioned muffs for Dad. I would use two thicknesses of either wool or cotton batting, keep them in the car and heat them on the seat so that they're already warm when I pick him to take him someplace in cold weather. I've roughed out the design in my mind; it's now "just" a matter of finding the time to make them. I might make one for myself as well.

Another option is a sleeping bag rated to cold weather, such as down to 30 degrees, or something like that. It can be used when she's sitting, in lieu of a quilt or throw.

Try to think of every body part, and how you can keep it warmer. And that closer warmth is, I think, more effective, then a generally higher heat temperature. They heat the person, not the air.

Hot chocolate or cider, or tea also help warm the body internally. A nice cider break while just chatting with your mother can also be heartwarming, in a different sense, more like bonding during quality time. Warming the body internally can always help as older bodies slow down and don't function as well to keep themselves warm.
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This question is a perennial favourite, here are some other threads that may contain helpful comments:
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Is there any way you can install a lock on the current heating control or install a Nest? This way you can limit the temperature she can put it up or down to. My mom does the same thing and it is suffocating.
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