Monday, January 27, 2014

Dementia and Heat

While growing up, my family would visit my Great Grandma Ollis in the mountains of North Carolina.  I don’t remember a great deal of details about these visits.  I do remember, though, how Grandma Ollis was old, her house was small, and the heat coming from her wood stove in the middle of the summer would take your breath away.  It was much like walking into an oven.
Fast forward some forty-five years, and let’s walk into Momma’s assisted living apartment.  While it is not as hot as Grandma Ollis’ small mountain home, it is hot enough to cause this menopausal woman to melt.  Go around the corner to Pop’s apartment, and you will find the thermostat set on 90.Yes, 90!
Why do we get so cold as we age?  The answer has a lot to do with fat.  Fat is a subject I don’t enjoy discussing.  I have fought the battle of the bulge my entire life, and fat is not my friend.  However, a vibrant and healthy young or middle-aged individual has fat pads beneath the skin.  These fat pads provide protection to the bones, and they help hold in heat.  As we age, these fat pads decrease and, eventually, they go away.  The absence of fat pads increases the likelihood of bruising and broken bones and decreases the body’s ability to stay warm.
When I visit Momma, and the heat starts to be too much, I find myself standing in the hall to cool off.  I don’ want to make her uncomfortable or self-conscious, but I don’t want to faint, either.  To top it all off, Momma is often lying in her bed with a flannel quilt on top and a heated mattress pad underneath her.  I am relatively sure I would melt like Frosty The Snowman if I crawled in bed with her.
While caregiving with someone with dementia, become aware of the "why " for the situation.  The answer will make you a better caregiver.  Hope that gives you Something To Ponder.