With the break of winter and the new growth of spring, it’s a natural time to think about spring cleaning. This time of year is a great time for family members and caregivers to check in on an older loved one and help out where they can, and we’re here to help with our 15 Spring Cleaning Tips for Seniors.
There are many ways to help create a safe environment for older adults, and one of the best ways to prevent falls is to do a little spring cleaning for the seniors in your life. Whether it be decluttering, checking on expired food and medicine, organizing daily items, or clearing the walkways, a good spring cleaning can be an important part of a proper safety program for seniors of all ages.
Tip #1: Have a Plan
There’s nothing more frustrating than working for hours and feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing! At Revel Home Care, we’re huge fans of the Pomodoro Technique, which focuses on small bites of focused work to accomplish a lot in a little time.
Before you start your Pomodoros, you need a plan. Start with defining a schedule and your goals. How long can you spend cleaning? What are the top priorities? Are you going to perform the work all at once or over a few different sessions? Develop a schedule that allows you to meet your goals and timing that works for you and your loved one.
Tip #2: Make Lists
Checklists are so important. Simple checklist procedures can make everyone more effective. Create a list of the various tasks required for your plan above. Organize the list into sections that are important to you and your loved ones, such as removing expired food, organizing pantries and closets, doing laundry, and performing safety checks.
Checklists have been shown to be effective in every walk of life, even substantially improving health outcomes, and we use them extensively with our caregivers and families. Google Keep and Evernote are simple checklist apps that work on both Andriod and iOS to help get you started quickly.
Tip #3: Declutter
Time marches forward and always seems to bring clutter with it. Throughout the year, everyone acquires more stuff that ends up in drawers, in piles – and in the way. Spring is a great time to organize and declutter. Put away anything that is unneeded on a daily basis. If it is unnecessary, throw it away.
Make sure to work with your loved one to determine what is important to keep and what can be tossed out.
Clutter can slowly evolve to become a safety hazard. Download this simple Home Safety Checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything!
Tip #4: Find the Right Tools
Who can do any job without the right tools? Properly cleaning and organizing requires a good set of tools to keep you safe, too. Dusters with extenders can help reach high places without having to balance on furniture. Using an affordable squeegee instead of paper towels on windows and other surfaces can also prevent accidents, and a standing dustpan can help reduce the need to bend over.
Tip #5: Recruit a Team!
Consider bringing a group together to quickly knock out the checklist from #2 above! Making it a family affair can be a great time to visit with the family. Your day together can include other activities, too, such as a family dinner or working on a memoir with your loved one.
If your plan and checklists are more extensive or you aren’t able to visit your loved one, consider a service to help do the cleaning for you. Goldilocks Solutions specializes in making your home just right, and they’d love to help do all the organizing and decluttering for you.
Tip #6: Toss Expired Meds
Our older loved ones have so much medication to remember and organize. If you aren’t using a home care service like ours, spring cleaning is a great time to take stock of what medication is being taken.
There’s no need to keep expired meds, as they can get in the way and take up space in the medicine cabinet. Go through them and toss out any that are expired or unused. This can also help with safety to prevent your loved ones from taking the wrong medication.
We love using tools to help our clients organize their medications. One of our favorites, PillPack is a great tool to stay organized and have confidence that your loved ones are taking the right medication at the right time.
Tip #7: Organize with Small Bins
Everything in its place! Using small bins to store items is a great way to keep them within arms reach (tip #10!) but safely stored. Store seasonal items, small tools, supplies, and more in an easy-to-reach location that’s properly organized.
Using small bins works great because they are easy to lift and move and can be left out on counters at the right height so that your loved one doesn’t have to reach too high or bend too low. There are several resources online to help you get started, but a quick Amazon search can help yield quick results.
Tip #8: Check the Fridge
Yes. It’s a gross job, but it’s time to check the refrigerator. Over the course of the year, that leftover eggplant parmesan keeps edging just a little further back on that middle shelf until it’s hidden from view. Go through the entire refrigerator and remove anything that’s past its expiration date. Reorganize the condiments and other items and move frequently used items to the front regions where they will be easy to reach. Don’t forget the freezer!
Tip #9: Use It or Lose It!
Are you still hanging on to that newspaper ad section from the President’s Day Sale? Are piles of old decorations and linens cluttering up closets and drawers? If you haven’t used it or worn it in the last year, you can probably safely remove it from your life. And, it’s a great way to help others by donating, selling, or giving away items, such as lightly-worn clothes, bedding, decorations, and other household items, that might still have value to others. This lets you use the extra space in easy-to-reach drawers and closets for more important items you actually use.
Tip #10: Take It Down or Raise It Up
One of the best tips for spring cleaning to keep your loved ones safe is to make sure they have what they need in arms reach. High spots like cabinets and top shelves pose a risk every time someone needs an item that is stored there. Step ladders can help, but it can still be dangerous to reach the high spots, particularly if the items are heavy or awkwardly shaped.
Similarly, storing items on low shelves or cabinets requires bending over, increasing the risk of a fall or muscle strain. Often, these spaces are used for heavy kitchen items that might be hard for your loved one to lift properly. By decluttering and tossing unneeded items, you can reuse the extra space on countertops in bathrooms and in closets to make it easier to grab and use the things that are most important.
Tip #11: Check the Alarms!
It’s recommended to change batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors every spring and fall. Make sure to also add a test of your detectors to your checklist and cleaning plan.
Fire extinguishers should also be checked regularly as they do expire. Make sure to have them readily available in high-risk areas like the kitchen.
If your loved one has an emergency response system, make sure it’s set up properly with the correct notification numbers and check with your provider about running a test so that you can be confident it will work when they really need to call for help.
Tip #12: Let Your Loved One Participate
While your loved one likely won’t be able to help with every task, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a part of the process. After all, it’s their home! Make sure to include them in all of the spring cleaning planning and have them assist with the tasks they can complete, such as organizing drawers and sorting through old clothes. Before deciding what to throw away and what to keep, get their buy-in and cooperation. You want them to feel good at the end, and having their help will avoid conflict.
Tip #13: Go Beyond Just the Clutter
There is more to life than the stuff in a home. This is also a great time to assess other areas of your loved ones’ lives. A financial and health care assessment needs to be periodically completed, and with a new, well-organized home, it’s a good time to reassess their ability to live safely on their own.
Does your loved one have proper legal documents to ensure their wishes are carried out? Can they safely live in their home alone? Are their finances in order? This kind of conversation can sometimes be difficult. If needed, we’re happy to help you guide the conversation.
Tip #14: Keep It Clean
Now that you’ve cleaned and organized the home, it’s time to keep it clean! One sign that it may be time to discuss an aide for your loved one is if they are unable to maintain a clean and proper home on their own.
Is their space disorganized? Is clutter creeping back in? Are there safety hazards again? Sometimes, this can be a sign of withdrawal and poor emotional health. Proper health requires keeping a clean home and maintaining good hygiene. However, it’s often hard for seniors to keep up with personal care tasks, such as bathing, cleaning clothes, and taking care of their home. If your loved one is not keeping up, it may be a sign that they are struggling and a caregiver might help to provide the household support they need.
Tip #15: Revel in the Everyday!
It’s important to celebrate every day, and spring cleaning is no exception. Have fun while you work. Make it a game and award points to those who do their tasks best. Keep score and let the winner pick a family activity when the cleaning is complete. Crank up the music and dance during your breaks. Involve your loved one and have a reward at the end, such as a nice dinner out or a family movie night.
Cleaning can be a drag, but it’s important to the safety of your loved ones. Whether it’s eliminating the clutter that can cause a fall or reorganizing household items so that they’re easier to reach, a well-maintained home is critical to allowing older adults to successfully live on their own. Work on a plan to keep things clean and make a plan to tackle it again next spring.
Do you have a great spring cleaning tip that you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below and let us know. We revel in providing our clients with the resources they need to stay safe while living at home, and we’d love to hear your ideas!