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Helping the Elderly Clean Their Home

Posted Wednesday, February 1st, 2017
Young woman sitting with elderly relative and smiling

Ensuring that your loved one lives in a clean home.

We all want to do our best for our aging relatives. The National Family Caregiver Support center recently issued a study that shows over 45 million people are caring for a disabled, elderly or chronically ill family member every year. On average, these people provide 25 hours of care per week—the equivalent of a part-time job. That’s also twice the amount of annual care as that provided by paid caregivers. If you are helping care for an elderly relative, think about these steps so that you can provide the best care while staying healthy yourself.

Tackling the mess with an elderly relative.

A cleaner space is a safer space and a healthier space, so many caregivers are motivated to cut some of the clutter, and certainly to eliminate dirt, debris and mold. However, older people can find it difficult to let go of possessions, or even handle the physical demands of cleaning. Given the difficult and personal nature of this task, it’s usually up to family to handle it. It’s helpful to be prepared for the emotional and logistical issues that arise. This may be a good time to ask for other family members for assistance in helping your relative sort through the valuable and the sentimental.

Reasons that older relatives struggle to organize.

Your relative’s failing health makes routine tasks much harder than they once were. But that’s not the only reason that cleaning can become such a thorny issue. Once people reach a certain age, some struggle with certain psychological barriers to throwing things out. Even rearranging can seem daunting. For some, possessions help fill the ache of loneliness. For others, depression makes even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming. And many older people, losing the independence they’ve had in other areas of life, value having control over their personal space, including decisions about which things go and which stay. Work with your relative as much as possible to help them retain a sense of control over their life.

Remember to respect your loved one’s choices.

This is a difficult time of life for caregivers but also for those who are increasingly dependent on your help. Just because someone is getting older shouldn’t mean their opinion doesn’t matter. When something happens that makes you think someone needs help cleaning and organizing, talk with them. Bring up your concerns, and ask if you can work together to decide what has to happen. The more involved they are, the less anxiety people feel, and the more you’ll be able to tackle these problems as a team.

Make a plan.

Going through someone else’s home is a big job. Ahead of time, walk through the home and make a list of issues that you will need to address. The most urgent tasks are health and safety hazards. You’ll want to check that the fire alarms are working, walkways are clear, food is fresh, etc. Second, address hording or organizing issues. Is the basement a maze of boxes and closets stuffed to the brim? Finally, consider how you can make the space feel welcoming and familiar, noting particularly special possessions you can showcase. The end goal is to make your loved one secure and happy in their home.

Come with the right tools for the job.

Whether it’s a weekend project while you visit from out-of-town, or a sustained effort at nearby relative’s home, get everything you need to work ready before you show up. This will be different depending on the scope of the undertaking. Think about whether you need to arrange for a dumpster, or maybe to rent a storage unit. When you arrive come with boxes, trash bags, tape, gloves, and any cleaning products you plan to use. Ask friends and family to help out – it’s important to take care of yourself too.

Try the three box method.

If you’ve gotten all the obvious health and safety hazards under control, then it’s time to think about what to do with a lifetime of heirlooms, junk, and everyday objects. As much as possible, include your relative. Walk through each room and divide what you find into three piles. One is to keep, another to donate, and the last to toss. This can take hours and be emotionally draining, so allow people with fragile health time to rest.

Finish with a deep clean.

Once you’ve done some basic decluttering and housekeeping, finish with some deep-cleaning. Particularly if this is a short visit to a relative’s home, you want to leave everything as clean as possible. Since you may be tired after your earlier efforts, you might consider hiring someone to thoroughly clean bathrooms and appliances.

Don’t forget that upholstery, draperies and carpets trap odors, mold, dander, and bacteria as well. A professional carpet cleaner can take care of this dirty task for you. Modernistic has flexible scheduling, which allows us to work with you to leave your loved one’s home as clean as possible. After using our services you’ll know they are as comfortable as possible until your return. Use our easy online scheduling tool to make an appointment today.

Helping the elderly clean their home in Jackson, Michigan for 40 years.

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