The Summer is Heating Up

Dear Therese,

My 85-year-old grandmother lives on her own and is in good health for her age, but with the heat of the summer upon us, I am worried for her.  She just barely makes it by on her SS check, and can’t afford air-conditioning.  I’m not in a position financially to take on her electric bill if she turned on the AC.  I am married and have two children.  I really like what Neale says about helping others, but what am I supposed to do?

Geena in TX

Dear Geena,

Let me begin with the practical things to do, that you may have already thought of….

I see you are in Texas, and I just moved from Houston, so I know that the power company has a program that encourages people to pay at least $1 extra to help seniors who cannot afford air-conditioning.  Perhaps such a program exists in your area and you can help your mother apply for it?  I also read that there is a federal program for such assistance.

( Paraphrased from an article called “The Savvy Senior,” by Jim Miller)

Next, make sure you are aware of the things, other than the actual heat, that contribute to the risk of heat-related illnesses, such as medications (diuretics, high blood pressure meds that can cause dehydration), being overweight, underlying illnesses like diabetes, certain heart issues, and trouble walking around.

Make yourself aware of how to prevent heat exhaustion.  Don’t wear tight clothing.  Hydrate, and avoid alcohol and caffeine.  Take frequent cool showers, apply cool water and ice packs to your skin.  Avoid sun exposure, and drink water even when you do not feel thirsty!

Spend time in public places, and check to see if your area has a local health department  air-conditioned shelter.

Okay, that is the practical.  How about the spiritual in all of this?

As you alluded to, CWG says that our purpose in life is to serve others.  We must be sure of who we are, and fill ourselves, of course, but we do this so that we may serve others well.

With that in mind, have you and your husband considered asking your mother to live with you?  Assuming this is possible.  Even if you have limited space, many cultures share bedrooms.  Grandchild and grandparent, for example.  If not full-time move in, how about on particularly hot days or months?  You have 2 children,  and many believe (as does CWG) that by taking advantage of the wisdom of the elders, it lessens the burden on the parents, gives the children a much larger view of life, and gives the elders a purpose.  In short, it models “we are all One” in a very real, close to home, way.  In fact, it is the perfect way to change the current paradigm of separateness that permeates our western cultures these days.  We can’t usually share what we believe with the whole world, but we can show our own children that there is a different way!

You would be serving your mother by doing any of the things mentioned above, but perhaps you might want to take the last step, too?  Your mother’s pride might get in the way of her accepting the offer initially, but, if it is something you are willing to do, be sure to keep the offer open.   Maybe even have a trial period.   If she does move in, be open to change and new ways of doing things.  This kind of situation does present challenges, but it also gives abundant opportunity for deciding who you really are…and acting on that decision.

Geena, you may find that your mother’s apparent helplessness is her greatest gift to you, to your children, and to the world.


(Therese Wilson is a published poet, and is the administrator of the global website at . She may be contacted at:                                             

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  • Mike Brown

    Buy for her or give a credit at a store for a big square box fan or the smaller turbo variety. . It doesn’t add too much to a summer hydro bill I have three of them in various windows and at least at night it cools down the place tolerably. we all lived before central air and we can now.

    • Therese

      Yes, we certainly did…and we all died, too, didn’t we? We also lived in smaller villages where people took care of one another because we knew our neighbor.

      It is a good solution, Mike, but it, too, adds to an already strained budget, even if minimally.