Spring, summer, fall or winter – there's no wrong time to declutter and clean. Whether you're a primary caregiver or your parent or loved is in an assisted living community, you may have noticed the senior in your life has acquired quite a collection of things over time. And those who live independently may neglect cleaning in general, as it can be physically and mentally tiring. That's where others come in to help. Here are a few tips on how to help a senior clean house:
1. Make a to-do list
Once you've noticed your parent or loved one's home needs some tidying or a deep clean, take stock of what most needs to be done. If you're ready to embark on a thorough cleaning journey to clear out your loved one's living space for good, add deep-cleaning tasks to your list of things to do. These may include window washing, steam cleaning furniture, scrubbing out the oven and other intensive tasks.
For those who aren't quite up for such an undertaking, make a list of areas that need a regular cleaning, ranking spaces from most frequently used to least frequently used for your loved one. You can start with the kitchen, then move on to the living room, bathroom and bedroom.
2. Declutter before cleaning
Most homes are in need of a decluttering, but it's especially important for seniors. Clutter can create dangerous tripping hazards, as well as mental stress that can cause strain on seniors with or without memory-loss issues.
Clutter also makes cleaning a much harder task. Old papers on a desk prevent easy dusting, as do collections of figurines on an end table near the couch. Your loved one doesn't have to get rid of everything, but if you can help them part with objects that no longer bring them happiness or serve a purpose, it will make cleaning and maintaining tidiness easier over time.
3. Set aside a full day
Cleaning house takes time, especially when the person living in the home has mobility issues or low energy levels that have prevented them from undertaking regular cleaning. Consider the fact that you may have to move a couch that hasn't been moved in years to sweep or vacuum, and that you may encounter dirt in spots that aren't often used.
Pay special attention to areas that collect dust or mold. Dust and pet hair can exacerbate allergies and asthma, and mold can do the same, causing itchy throat and eyes or even skin irritation. Removing mold from bathtubs or near the kitchen sink may require some dedicated time, and in addition to decluttering, a full house or apartment cleaning can take several hours. Give yourself enough time to do the job well – in other words, it may be best to set aside a full day to clean.
4. Give your loved one low-impact tasks
Seniors who have mobility issues won't be able to help you carry heavy bags of trash to the garbage can, but they may be able to help with cleaning in other ways. In addition to achieving a clean space, your loved one will feel useful and will also retain a sense of control over their space.
For example, while you're doing the heavy lifting around the house, seniors can sort through their papers to throw out, or go through their collection of mementos, deciding what to keep, and cleaning these of any dust while sitting in a chair or on the couch. They can also sort through clothes while sitting – collect your loved one's clothing and bring it to them on the couch to sort through. Provide them with a garbage bag to dispose of clothing items they're ready to part with.
5. Make it a group activity
If you're a primary caregiver, you already do a lot on your own. When it comes time to clean and tidy, enlist the help of other family members to assist you. The work will go twice (or three times) as fast, and you can also make it more of a social event for the senior in your life.
You can split up assignments between the group, assigning the more rigorous tasks by room. One person can take the kitchen while another tackles the bathroom. Or you can decide that one person will focus on decluttering closets and the living room while the other cleans areas that are less crowded.
If you're more focused on decluttering, or if the task of purging items from the house will take several days, you can also consider bringing in a cleaning service to take on areas that need deep cleaning. You're probably capable of deep cleaning the bathroom, but you can also hire someone for two or three hours to clean those spaces professionally while you help dust, sort and sweep the house.