March 28, 2019

Spring is finally here, which means it’s a perfect time for spring cleaning. For many families, spring cleaning is also an opportunity to check up on their older loved ones, evaluate the safety of their home environment, and make sure they’re still able to live alone independently. If you’re helping an older loved one with spring cleaning this year, take a look at these helpful tips:

Start Small

Cleaning an entire home can be an overwhelming task, especially for older adults. For those with limited mobility or arthritis, chores like moving heavy furniture, cleaning the gutters, or bending over to sweep or vacuum can be very difficult and may even lead to an accident. Enlist the help of friends and family members to make the spring cleaning process easier. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.” Together, you can tackle your loved one’s to-do list safely and effectively.

Clear out the Clutter

We all accumulate clutter in our homes, whether it’s paperwork, clothes, books, or just extra “stuff” that gets in the way. For older adults who have accumulated a lifetime of stuff, letting go can be particularly challenging. When cleaning a clutter-filled room, encourage your loved one to sort their belongings into three different piles: yes, no, and maybe. Going through items one-by-one will help them evaluate what they truly need to keep, and what’s just taking up space in their home. Depending on their condition, the items in the “no” pile can be donated to charity. If your loved one is having a hard time letting go of sentimental items, consider taking photos for a scrapbook as an alternative to keeping the item.

Look for fall hazards

Most older adults live in their homes for decades without making any changes or renovations. But over time, their home may require some simple updates to make it safer and eliminate any dangerous fall hazards. For example, make sure the home has adequate lighting, especially at the top and bottom of stairs, and be sure that all stairs have secure railings. Tape wires or cords (like lamp cords or telephone wires) next to walls so they don’t pose a trip hazard, and secure throw rugs with double-sided tape or a non-slip backing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a helpful home safety checklist with more tips.

Check alarms and smoke detectors

Finally, test the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your loved one’s home and replace all dead batteries. Now is also a good time to ensure your loved one’s emergency contact list is up-to-date. Create a list of the current home, work, and cell phone numbers of individuals your loved one should contact in an emergency, and place the list where they can find it easily, such as on the refrigerator.

If you are concerned about the safety of a loved one living alone, it may be time to discuss the benefits of moving to a senior living community. Moving to a senior living community means your loved one will live in a safe, secure environment, where they no longer have to worry about keeping up with household chores or maintenance tasks. While starting the conversation about senior living is never easy, it’s important to express your concerns sooner rather than later for the safety and overall well-being of your loved one.

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