Why is spring the time of year we take a step back and do a thorough cleaning of the house? Well, I am glad you asked! A not so long time ago, dark colored grime and soot would build up over the winter months from using candles, kerosene lamps and wood or coal burning stoves. So each spring, as the days started getting longer and the temperature started getting warmer, it was time to scrub every surface and launder everything made of fabric. You opened up your windows and doors to let the winter out and you breathed in the fresh scent of spring.
Even with the modern conveniences electricity and technology have brought us spring cleaning remains a long held tradition for many families. Sure, the chores have changed and it might be more about emptying out the garage and painting a few walls, but spring is still a time to focus on cleaning and home improvements.
If you are a caregiver, it may also be time to focus on your senior loved one’s home. Is it cluttered? Is a deep cleaning in order? Are repairs necessary?
Here are seven tips to help get you started:
1. The All Important To-Do List. Write down everything you and your senior loved one would like to get done. Tasks may include yard work, fresh coats of paint, deep cleaning, and more.
Tasks to include that will reduce senior safety hazards:
- Sort and clean out the medicine cabinet. Make sure all expired drugs have been removed.
- Go through the kitchen cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer to remove all expired or rotten food.
- Replace light bulbs where needed and ensure that the bulb offers enough light.
- Replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Check all electrical outlets in each room to be sure they’re covered by a plastic plate, working, and not damaged or loose. Put your hand on the wall around each outlet to check for warmth, look for flickering lights and sniff for strange smells. If you ever see sparks or smoke, call an electrician immediately.
- Clear clutter away from all walkways in and out of the home.
- Throw rugs, low furniture, and other seemingly normal furniture may be tripping hazards, user your judgment and remove whatever isn’t necessary.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom for ease of use with the toilet and bath.
- Test the medical alert system in every room of the house and make sure all emergency contact information is accurate.
2. Put it on the calendar and follow through with it. Make sure to block off an appropriate amount of time in your schedule for the tasks you want to get done. Whether you make is a full weekend of work or split it up into chunks of time over a few weeks, it is important to stick to your schedule. Don’t let it drag on week after week, just get it done.
3. Create a budget and stick to it. Just like any home repair, spring cleaning has costs associated to it and they may spiral out of control if you are not careful. Make sure you know what the fees are for local dumping and check rates on the delivery of a dumpster if one is needed. You will need cleaning supplies, bags for garbage and donations, painting supplies, and more. It is always best to understand the costs ahead of time and work them out with your senior loved one and your co-caregivers.
4. More hands make for faster work. Invite other members of the family local friends to come and help out. The more people that can help the more you can get done and the better life you will help to provide for your loved one. If you can’t convince family members to lend a hand, try hiring some local neighborhood kids to help.
5. Make your senior loved one feel useful. If you keep your loved one engaged and feeling useful, no matter what the limitations might be, you will get more done. If your loved one has a difficult time lifting things or just getting around the house, provide them with sedentary tasks that are also very useful such as sorting, polishing, and filing. If there are big decisions to be made about throwing something out or a significant home repair, make sure to consult your loved one first.
6. Focus big picture first. Instead of deep cleaning a small part of the home or planting new shrubs first, focus on the big picture stuff like getting the clutter out and making sure the home is safe. Many seniors who have accumulated a lifetime of belongings often have so much stuff that it clutters the house and make it difficult to clean. Don’t just dust around the piles, manage the problem first. Look at storage options for everything that your loved one wants to keep. Don’t just throw things out; handle the clutter in a diplomatic and straight forward manner.
7. It’s not just about cleaning. Take this time to help figure out how to make sure the home stays clean and safe. 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, it is probably time for some extra help around the house and added weekly visits.