On his drive home from his aging father’s house, Jessie felt heavy. His father Stan was still living in the family home, and it was always a joy for Jessie to visit the little bungalow he grew up in. This time was different, though.
Although his father seemed well, Jessie noticed that over the course of the winter the house had become quite cluttered. And when the spring sun shone into the living room while the two chatted over coffee, Jessie noticed a thick layer of dust on every surface illuminated by the light.
Stan was recovering from hip surgery over the winter and had limited mobility, which meant that he wasn’t able to keep the house as tidy and orderly as he usually did. This, Jessie suspected, was why he felt different when he left the house. So, with spring in the air, Jessie thought it would be the perfect time to give his father’s place a good spring clean.
We all know how good it feels to live in a tidy, organized, clean home free of unnecessary clutter. But we also know how much energy it takes to achieve a clean house—especially after a long winter. So, if your aging loved one lives independently it’s a good idea to help them do some spring cleaning and organizing to refresh their living space and improve their overall sense of well-being. Let’s look at the top five spring cleaning tips to try this season when helping your loved one spruce up their home.
Tip #1: Plan Well
It’s important to start the spring cleaning process by making sure that you and your aging loved one are on the same page with what needs to be done. I suggest making a nice cup of tea, sitting down together with a pen and paper, and creating a checklist of all the tasks that need to be done.
Once you’ve made the list, go through it and rate the items according to priority. Deep cleaning the bathroom, for example, may be high priority, whereas washing the windows from the outside may be low on the list. I find that cleaning is a lot more successful when you know exactly what needs to be done and in what order. Then, plan a day or two to get the cleaning done!
Tip #2: Invite Friends and Family
Cleaning is more fun when done in the presence of loved ones—plus it gets done a whole lot quicker. As soon as you settle on a date and time for the big clean, reach out to family and friends and ask if they would dedicate some time to helping your aging loved one out. Make the offer even more enticing by offering to provide lunch. You’re loved one would likely be happy to have a full house of people helping out and will enjoy having the opportunity to catch up with friends and family.
Tip #3: Delegate
It’s important to include your loved one in the spring cleaning process so that they feel they are contributing. It is their home after all, so try and let them take a leadership role. Remember, nobody likes to have someone come to their home and take it over! Allow them to choose the tasks they feel they can handle, the ones they’d feel more comfortable having you do, and the things the two of you can do together. Be sure to honor their physical limitations—vacuuming the crown molding or scrubbing the inside of the fridge take a great deal of strength and agility so they may not be the best tasks for them to do.
They may, for instance, prefer that you replace the light bulbs and clean the tub while they take care of the more personal tasks, like organizing their closet. Doing spring cleaning tasks together can actually be a good chance to bond with one another, as working cooperatively towards a common goal can strengthen relationships.
Tip #4: Check and File Paperwork
Papers pile up all too easily, so take the time to sit down with your loved one and go through all their loose paperwork, like bills or letters, file the ones they need and recycle the rest. This can be an excellent opportunity to make sure that your loved one has been staying on top of payments and keeping up with correspondence. Plus, it gives them the chance to open up to you about important things going on in their life that they want you to know about.
I’d also recommend using this time to ensure that your loved one’s living will and advanced directive are up to date. If they don’t have one, now is a good time to make one. Take advantage of the extra sunlight and increased energy that spring brings and help them get their affairs in order.
Tip #5: Improve Home Safety
Clutter isn’t just an eyesore, it can also be a safety hazard for aging adults living alone. Make it a priority to make sure their floors are free of any obstructions and that there are clear pathways to every room. Keep an eye out for loose carpeting, poorly placed decorations, and stray electrical wires. It’s also a good idea to give the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector a check to make sure they are running optimally.
Speaking of safety, it’s a good idea to sit down with your loved one and go through their medicine cabinet, as they could have expired pills that they no longer need. Proper medication management will help ensure that they are taking the right medication and reduce the risk of them accidentally taking something that might be dangerous to their health. In fact, using a home safety checklist can make this task a whole lot easier and help make sure that you don’t miss anything that could pose a threat to your loved one’s safety.
The Gift of a Tidy Home
Once you’re all finished cleaning your loved one will have a nice tidy home to enjoy. It is, after all, incredibly uplifting to have a freshly cleaned living space. Not only will it boost their mood and make them feel more comfortable, but an organized, clean, de-cluttered home will help keep them safe and healthy–and that, perhaps, is the most important outcome of spring cleaning of all.
Institute on Aging offers a variety of programs and services that help aging adults live safely and independently in their homes. To learn more about how we may be able to help your aging loved one, contact us today.