Parent Continually Fiddling with Thermostat

By: Frank Engelman.  Updated: September 17, 2021.


Problem description

Is your loved one continually misadjusting their thermostat — potentially causing health and financial issues? 

I want a thermostat that will work for people with dementia, or impaired vision, or who for other reasons have trouble managing their thermostat.


I loved this article by explorer and entrepreneur Peter Zimmer about designing a thermostat that would be suitable in situations where a person suffers from dementia. And two of the comments below that article did such a great job of summarizing the problem, I excerpt them here:


Thermostat and Cognition or Vision Challenges

From "Dave in Dallas":

"Where can we buy a Jeeves thermostat. I'm dealing with a [Mother in Law] in a memory care facility who is suffering from advanced dementia + Severe macular degeneration. She is almost blind. She fiddles with her thermostat constantly during the day and sometimes 10-15 times at night.

She adjusts to what she thinks is an appropriate number that she really can't see, walks to the wall-mounted heat pump for instant response. It is either "burning up" or "blowing icicles". Back to readjust. Now she is having issues grasping larger numbers are warmer, lower numbers are cooler. HELP!! There is wifi if I can find anything to remedy this problem.

I'd buy a Jeeves thermostat today for most any cost just to prevent the multiple phone calls and complaints from the staff."


From Vialsha:

"Wow, I am having the same problem.

We have sm heaters in every room but he wants to change the main one. 2 years ago we broke it bc he would turn it to 80 then I would turn it to 76, then he would turn it back to 86, then as the house became unceasingly hot I would change it back to 76.

Although, he understands and agrees with the thermostat at 76, he still changes it then he says he has not touched it. It is very difficult bc once the house reaches temps of 80 and up it is difficult to get it back down.

There are throw blankets every where around the house and I have his favorite long sleeves shirts available for him to put over his t-shirt, he just looks at it and refused to put it on or use a heavier blanket.

I feel horrible and he feels mad at me because I have locked the thermostat at 76.

I am with him all the time but it only takes seconds such as when I leave the room to go to the bathroom. I return we cont watching tv and an hour later I am sweating and wondering what is going on.

Before I go take a look at the thermostat I ask him " did you change the temp? He looks directly at my face and says "no. I have not touched it."

I say ok well, let me see what is going on bc it is getting very hot, so I find the thermostat at 89 so clearly I set it back to 76."


DIY Solution

I wanted a solution for this situation. I could not find a commercially available solution, but created the DIY alternative you can see below.


More Like This

This is part of a series of "Problems" and DIY Technology "Solutions" to the challenges faced by older adults, by Frank Engelman. 



Suggested Solutions

Smart Thermostat, Dementia or Poor Vision

I needed a smart thermostat to help overcome problems of an elderly relative with dementia and low vision. I ended up creating a solution that combined a commercially available thermostat with some DIY automation using Alexa.



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