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Guide to Spring Cleaning the Elderly Household
Categories: Caregiving Articles, Senior Care Tips | Posted: 4/4/2013 | Views: 5818

Spring Cleaning the Elderly Household

One of the jobs of a family caregiver is to help an aging parent or relative with old-fashioned housekeeping. Routine house cleaning can be done easily on a regular basis.  But, every so often, the house needs a more thorough cleaning.  Getting outside help, if your parent is okay with this, can be a good idea.  Knowing ahead of time what tasks you will assign to that person can seriously reduce the load of spring cleaning while also caregiving!  Whether you do it yourself or get help, here are some special considerations for seniors.

De-Cluttering the Elderly Person’s Home

Spring cleaning can start with a room by room effort to simply remove useless objects. The less cluttered, the better. Some seniors will not want to let go of items. One way to do this is to have three laundry baskets – one for garbage, one for storage, and one for items to donate or give away. Often, saving some things for attic storage is one way to let someone hold on to items and remove it to de-clutter a room.

The Basic Spring Clean

Of course, there is the old fashioned spring clean in anyone’s home. Start at the top, cleaning vents, cobwebs, etc. Clean the walls down with plain hot water (ok on most surfaces – check with the manufacturer for wall papers and certain types of paint). Dust pictures and wall art. Getting rid of all this dust especially helps elderly people who have asthma or other breathing issues. Some curtains can go right in the dryer on a cool setting to simply remove dust and others will need dry-cleaning or washing. Again, check product information to be sure.

Then dust and move furniture to clean the floors. Carpets get a lift from a professional clean or at home shampooing.

Cleaning the Medicine Cabinet

Spring is a great time to inventory the medicine chest. One way to do that is to take the medicines in a box to your pharmacist and ask for advice. But, most of us can make some headway first by eliminating those drugs that we no longer need. Medicines can lose their potency, increase potency, or become contaminated when they sit too long – leading to potential problems for your aging parent.

Other hazards of having too much medicine laying around is that a cluttered medicine chest can lead to accidently taking the wrong medication.

This is a good time to also consider purchasing a pill box to help your aging parent take medications regularly. SageMinder reminder calls could also be set up to help with medication reminders.

Since the active ingredients in medicines often do not decompose, simply flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away can create a hazard for streams and wildlife. Take discarded medications to your pharmacist who will dispose of them properly.

Over the Counter Medicines

Over the counter medications (OTCs) for winter may have included cold and flu medications, pain relievers, and things to help with indigestion. Some liquid OTCs can evaporate if not stored properly and that can make the drug more concentrated and potentially dangerous. If the lid has not been tight or if you feel it has been sitting around too long, it is probably a wise time to chuck it. Some OTC medications need refridgeration after opening. If you find these have been sitting around in your cupboard instead, they may have spoiled.

Of course, medicines that have expired should also be discarded. And those that have simply been opened and laying around for over a year may also be contaminated just by people touching them over time. If you are unsure, ask a pharmacist.

Prescription Medications

Again, any that have expired should be tossed. If you have old prescriptions half used or that the doctor told you to stop taking, they should probably be discarded. Especially if you or your aging parent are taking a lot of different medications, it may be a good time to list all prescribed medicines and talk to your doctor about whether all the medications are still necessary. Sometimes, a family physician will not realize what other doctors have been prescribing you and it could be that some drugs interact and others are simply unnecessary. Having a “medication” check at your next checkup or appointment is a good way to greet spring.

Safety Checklist

Most people have looked around at an aging parent’s home and tried to figure out if there are safety issues. But, this should be re-evaluated every spring. Why? Well, safety needs may change if your aging parent’s condition, eyesight, or mobility has changed. And, some things wear out like old batteries in a fire alarm or carbon monoxide detector. Rugs can wear out causing tripping hazards. Performing safety checks can help prevent falls and other accidents.

Special Areas of the Elderly Household to Clean

Elderly people living with you will appreciate a fresh and clean home. Elders living alone may not even realize how much help they need with cleaning. Hiring a regular cleaner may be considered to help keep things in tip-top condition. For seniors living alone, some areas to pay special attention to are:

  • The Bed – soiling or simple neglect can often hide under some nice coverlet. Strip the bed, check or replace mattress pads and freshen the bed as often as possible.  In the spring, consider replacing mattress pads and sheets that may be worn.
  • The bathroom – Due to problems of physical limitations or eyesight, mold and other things can grow in corners without anyone really being aware of it unless you really look for it. A thorough cleaning of areas that involve water can prevent air quality and mold issues.
  • Kitchen – Some seniors may not be cleaning out their refrigerator. Look for spoiled or expired foods and discard.  Spring is a good time to clean out the freezer as well.
  • Garage – check for old rags or any other pile of potentially flammable items. Remove clutter and any hazardous materials no longer needed.

Involving Your Elderly Parent

Having mobility issues or physical limitations can make lugging furniture and vacuume cleaners difficult, but elderly parents can often clean out drawers, go through old papers, polish silver, etc. Always involve your parent in decisions to get rid of things. It can be very disturbing and anxiety producing to have things removed without permission.


Chris Says:
8/28/2013 11:44:51 AM
I hate spring cleaning so I clean on a regular basis and donate anything that I have not used in the last year to Goodwill. It was pretty rough cleaning my parents home out after their death and my kids will be so happy.
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