There are 6.7 million seniors in the US that are over the age of 85, making this the fastest-growing age group in the US. As seniors age, mobility tends to decline, and tasks like cleaning can be challenging. Many seniors are living on their own, which can make housekeeping a difficult task. They may need help breaking up tasks into a manageable routine, or they may need someone to come and do these things for them, whether that is a family member or a professional. It’s important to make sure your senior’s home is clean and organized to maintain a healthy and safe living environment.
Why you should clean your senior’s home
Reduces the risk of falls
If there is clutter on the floors, your senior could easily trip on it when making their way through the house. This is especially true when visibility is low, or when they are in a rush to get to the bathroom. To minimize this hazard, you can tidy up items on the floor, such as items lining the stairs or purses and boots in the entryway. Try to keep things off of the floor with hooks, shelves, or storage containers.
Cuts down on germs
A clean house can cut down on the germs in the environment, but if your senior is having difficulty keeping up with chores, consider purchasing a personal robot to help them clean. Lower microbes mean that there will be fewer bacteria and viruses to fight off. This can help the body stay healthy and disease-free. Just wipe down the counters, stove, and sink after cooking. Clean the bathroom frequently. Anti-slip mats can help keep footing inside the tub or shower while you clean.
Improves their mood
Have you ever noticed that you feel better in a clean house? Clutter, dust, and debris might make your senior feel anxious or depressed. A clean environment leads to a sense of control, calm, and happiness. The psychological benefits alone are worth the work of tidying up when you can.
Welcomes their guests
Social connection is key to older adults’ overall health. When the house is clean, it will be ready for visitors. It feels good to invite a person into a well-cared-for home. If the place is cluttered or dirty, however, they might hesitate to ask friends and family into their home. On the other hand, they’ll likely be proud to show off their surroundings if it is clean and organized.
How to keep your senior loved one’s house clean
The number of elderly individuals who are living into their eighties and beyond is steadily increasing. Studies show that 77% of surveyed seniors plan to “age in place,” and continue living independently. Even through the pandemic, the percentage of seniors wanting to stay in their homes remains fairly consistent. Here are some tips for keeping your senior loved one’s house clean.
1. Create a cleaning schedule
Before starting, it may help to sit down and write a list of all the things that need to get done in the house, including any small tasks like dusting or sorting. Once your list is complete, create a scheduled day or time for each task. This will help you break it up into something manageable and lessen the overall stress. You may want to do it all in a few days, or you could schedule it over the course of a few weeks depending on the time you have.
2. Ask family and friends to help
Though the task of cleaning can be overwhelming, you don’t have to do it alone. It’s not a bad thing to ask family or friends to help you and your senior loved one, making it a family affair or viewing it as quality time. This is a great way to delegate tasks and make the cleaning go faster. Each person can take something off the list, or you might decide to have someone come each day of the week to do what they can. If you all come together, it can be a fun bonding experience, and it may even make your loved one happy to have others in the house.
3. Set aside a whole day
If you decide to get the cleaning and organizing done all at once, make sure to plan for an entire day of work. There are most likely going to be a ton of small tasks that weren’t planned for, such as dusting off shelves, removing mold from the bathtub or sink, and moving furniture to clean behind them. You want to dedicate enough time to do a thorough job and ensure your loved one’s home is a healthy and safe environment.
4. Eliminate clutter
As you’re cleaning and organizing, you might find your senior loved one has held onto items over the years that are now piled up or in boxes around their home. Before deciding what is worth keeping or tossing, have a talk with them about the clutter. They may have held onto things due to sentimental value, or they may not have known what to do with things lying around the house. If you see any problems arise, such as tons of expired food, it’s important to have a talk with them or think about hiring help.
5. Give your loved one low-impact tasks
While seniors may not be able to help you with heavy-lifting or tasks that involve bending down or reaching behind furniture, that doesn’t mean they can’t help at all. You can delegate smaller or less rigorous tasks to them, such as sorting through mail, dusting off a table while sitting in a chair, or deciding what items to keep or discard. This is a great way to get them involved and make them feel useful in the process.
6. Hire outside help
There may come a time when you need to consider hiring someone to help your loved one maintain their home if it becomes too difficult to do on your own. There are light housekeeping services or home caregivers that can come to your senior’s home and maintain routine cleaning tasks like washing dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom, and vacuuming. Alongside cleaning or organizing, having a consistent person in their home may be a good source of companionship for the senior. They will have someone to talk to on a daily or weekly basis, lessening the feeling of isolation or loneliness that many seniors face as they get older.
7. Consider your resources
If you are struggling to create a safe and healthy space for your senior loved one, contact Wellspring Center for Prevention to learn more about a number of programs dedicated to seniors that can assist with promoting healthy decisions, creating a healthy environment, and engaging them in education towards a positive lifestyle.