Spring Cleaning for a Senior’s Home

Spring Cleaning for a Senior’s Home

We are only one week into spring, but the sun is already shining bright, flowers starting to bloom, and our homes need a little “cleaning.”

Spring cleaning is an oddly traditional event during which people clean out unused items from their closets, drawers, backyards, offices, and even unused furniture. It’s a good time to assess what hasn’t been used, or what is no longer useful in the future, and get rid of it. Most people donate the things they cleaned out, as long as they are still in good condition.

For seniors, though, this means changes to their already-comfortable lifestyle. But those changes don’t have to be bad. This is a chance for seniors to reorganize and start living a simpler life. For family members caring for senior loved ones, this is an opportunity to assess whether the home is safe, needs improvements, documents need to be updated, and/or medications need to be cleaned out. Below are some tips on helping your senior loved one do some spring cleaning.

Communicate with your senior loved one about their preferences for how the cleaning should go. It is important to have an open discussion about what the senior’s needs are versus what the family believes should be cleaned out. Your senior loved one’s opinion must be considered when making decisions about their belongings, or home. In many cases, it is helpful to create a list of what to keep, what to dispose of, and what to donate.

Check the medicine cabinet for expiration dates, empty bottles, outdated prescriptions, etc. For seniors who take multiple medications, it is important to keep a detailed account of the medications, with proper dosage and schedule for each. During spring cleaning, it’s important to check for empty bottles, expiration dates of medications and vitamins, alike, changes in dosage, and any Rx that still needs filling or refilling. Meds that can no longer be taken or used, must be disposed of properly.

Dispose of outdated documents, and file away old medical records. Although there are more electronic medical records now, hard (paper) copies of hospitalizations, outpatient visits, and other facility services or discharges, are still a big part of healthcare documentation that we collect. This is a good time to file away older medical records, and dispose of those documents that have been updated (such as living wills, advanced directives, etc.).

Clean up clutter in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms. This is the time of the year when you must assess whether furniture, equipment, appliances, etc. are not being used, and get rid of them (by donating, if they are in good shape). Especially pay attention to those big items (like tables, plants, etc.) that pose a hazard to a safe environment for your senior loved one. It’s important to keep living areas free of clutter!

Develop or revise emergency plan. Discuss with your loved ones a practical plan for dealing with emergencies relating to your senior loved one. Talk about falls, fires, being locked out of the house, or lost in the neighborhood, even medical emergencies. You should have emergency phone numbers listed, and an easy way for your loved one to call 911, if needed.

Remember that spring cleaning is not merely a time to throw things out. It should be used as a time to check your home for what you don’t need anymore. Or maybe some things that you have been missing, and now have a need for. More importantly, your senior loved one should be living simpler, free of clutter, and in a safe environment.