Piles of dirty laundry in the corner, dust on the counters, old food in the fridge – you’re seeing this more and more at Mom and Dad’s house. Difficulty keeping a home clean may be among the first signs a loved one needs help at home.
Inability to care for a home might be a touchy topic for aging adults. Lack of addressing the topic, though, could lead to safety hazards. If your loved one’s home could use a good corner-to-corner cleaning, broach the subject delicately with these tips from the 40-70 Rule.
Then consider these five ways to get it done.
1. Make a checklist
Write down everything you and your older adult loved one would like to get done. Tasks may include washing windows and curtains, wiping out the refrigerator, scrubbing the floor, and more. Consider completing the Home Safety Checklist to help reduce safety hazards including the following:
- Clean out the medicine cabinet and dispose of expired medications or those no longer prescribed
- Throw away any expired food
- Replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors
- Remove clutter from walkways
- Replace light bulbs if necessary and ensure rooms and hallways are adequately lit
- Get rid of throw-rugs to eliminate tripping hazards
- Consider installing grab bars in the bathroom
2. Schedule it
Just like a doctor’s appointment or other important commitment, block off time in your schedule that you can devote to cleaning. You may want to knock everything out in one weekend, or you may want to take it one chore at a time over several weeks, fitting it in when you have time. Either way, consider it time well spent with your loved one.
3. Enlist help
Make it a family affair. If you can’t convince family members to lend a hand, consider hiring help. A professional caregiver can assist with laundry, dusting, vacuuming and other light housekeeping tasks.
4. Involve your aging 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 take care of the rest of the home.
5. De-clutter, then clean
Older adults who have accumulated a lifetime of belongings often have so much stuff that it clutters the house and makes it difficult to clean, much less live safely in. Don’t just clean around the piles – tackle them first. But be careful not to get trash-happy. Learn the reasons older adults hang on to stuff and how to handle the clutter in a diplomatic manner.
Finally, be sure to address any problems you uncover while cleaning. You don’t want to see the fruits of your labor reverse back into a mess in less than six months. If you discover your loved one has piles of unpaid bills, expired food in the pantry or hasn’t been cleaning up after the pets, perhaps it’s time for some extra help around the house. A little housekeeping help from a professional caregiver for just a few hours a week can help keep the home clean while offering your loved one companionship and support on a regular basis.