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Turning up the heat

March 7, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
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When I moved to my first nursing home, the thermostat was locked. So, when the heat or air conditioning needed adjusted, either the nurse or maintenance brought the key, unlocked the thermostat and changed it. Many times the nurse was busy, so I asked my aide to maneuver a bendable straw between the locked thermostat cover to push the lever up or down. This worked like a charm, and we needed no key. I told the nurses and maintenance what I was doing. I never increased or decreased the temperature in the room very much. But it was convenient that an aide could do it for me when the room was uncomfortable.

Years later, the facility installed new wall heater and air conditioning units. The thermostats were unlocked and on the unit.

An HVAC guy taught me years ago to keep a thermometer close to the heating thermostat as a comparison for temperature. I have usually done it to see if the thermostat is accurate. Since my present room has no thermostat, it is the only way I know what the temperature is.

When I first moved to this nursing home, it was early fall and my room was chilly in the morning. After the central heating was turned down, which comes through a ceiling vent, the room was warm.

My room has a radiant heater over the window. It heats gradually and does do the job. However, the heating unit is up high. The unit does not have a thermostat and the control knob was removed to prevent residents from adjusting it. Many times, it gets way too warm in my room when housekeeping or maintenance is not here. Then, it is more difficult to turn the radiant heater up, down or off.

I know it is difficult to keep resident rooms comfortable. Some residents are always too warm while others are usually freezing. When I had a roommate, my room was consistently warmer, which meant I needed less heat in the winter, but more air conditioning in the summer.

I have read that commercial buildings and offices have dummy thermostats. If they are adjustable, changing them does not actually change the temperature. Companies do not want employees to constantly turn thermostats up and down.

When Jerry Seinfeld interviewed President Barack Obama for the Internet program "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee", he asked, "Can you adjust the heat or air conditioning yourself?" Obama smiled and said, "I do not adjust it myself. I have to call someone."

I never thought about how the President controlled the room temperature in his working and living environment. But if the President has to ask someone for a thermostat change, nursing home residents should not be surprised that we have to do the same thing.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...