It’s time to let in the fresh fragrance of spring! If an older loved one’s home could use a good corner-to-corner cleaning, here are five steps to get it done together.
1. Make a list. Write down everything that needs to get done. Tasks may include washing windows and curtains, wiping out the refrigerator, or scrubbing the floor. To reduce safety hazards:
o Clean out the medicine cabinet, disposing expired medications or those no longer prescribed.
o Throw away expired food.
o Replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
o Remove clutter from walkways.
o Replace light bulbs if necessary and ensure rooms and hallways are adequately lit.
o Get rid of throw rugs to eliminate tripping hazards.
o Consider installing grab bars in the bathroom.
2. Schedule it. Just like a doctor’s appointment, block off time devoted to spring cleaning. You may want to knock it all out in one weekend, or take it one chore at a time over several weeks. Either way, consider it time well spent with your loved one.
3. Enlist help. The more the merrier. If you can’t convince family members to lend a hand, consider hiring help.
4. Involve your loved one. It’s important to keep your loved one engaged and feeling useful, no matter what his or her limitations. If it’s not easy for Mom to get around, hand her the silver polish and silverware. Or give Dad a stack of papers to go through while you work elsewhere.
5. De-clutter, then clean. Seniors who have accumulated a lifetime of belongings often have so much stuff that it clutters the house, making it difficult to clean, much less live in safely. Don’t just clean around the piles—tackle them first. But be careful not to get trash-happy. There may be underlying reasons why your loved one is hanging on to stuff; handle the clutter in a diplomatic manner.
Finally, be sure to address any problems you uncover while cleaning. If you discover piles of unpaid bills, expired food in the pantry or that nobody is cleaning up after Fido, perhaps it’s time for help. A caregiver can provide a few hours of housekeeping help while at the same time offering your loved one companionship and support.