When the climate changes and temperatures exceed 90 degrees, I have far less energy to be a good caregiver. Mom, however, loves the heat. Once summer arrived, she stopped grinding her teeth and her mood has improved. Climate has a huge impact on caregivers and patients. Why don’t we hear more about it?
Since my mother was first diagnosed, she has craved warmth and heat. Last winter, I boosted Mom’s happiness by raising the thermostat. We have a super efficient coal stove that produces many BTU’s. Mom was most pleased when the rest of us were sweating. Her attachment to warmth helps me understand why so many retirees head for Florida.
But what happens to caregivers in warm places with water shortages? Several months ago, parts of California were put under mandatory water restrictions. Water is essential for managing all the hygiene and laundry problems that come with caregiving. At least three times a week I find myself washing sheets and bed protectors. Keeping up with mom’s hygiene also requires lots of water for sponge baths and other emergency clean-ups. Nevertheless, caregivers must respond to Governor Jerry Brown’s order to reduce state water usage by 25% this year. A board of water usage monitors the amount of water consumed in each municipality to determine if water conservation goals are met. Caregivers in California’s East Bay Area will face a “$48 penalty on the billing cycle for customers” exceeding the usage of average customers.
Once I got to thinking about ways that drought and temperature affects dementia families, my thoughts turned to those caring for sick familiy members in the midst of war. We often see photos of children displaced by brutal battles. But what about elderly people who have lost the capacity to make sense of what’s going on around them? How do their caregivers manage? My searches for information about caregivers in Iraq, Afghanistan and other war-stricken countries returned zero results. As hard as caregiving may be for us in the U.S., I’m sure that caregivers in those places face even greater struggles. If you’re a caregiver facing a challenge caused by climate or calamity, send a note and help inform us about what’s happening in your part of the world.