February 27, 2019

Temperatures are climbing. The grass is growing greener and flowers are starting to bloom. You know what that means: It’s finally springtime in Chicago!

Spring is a magical time here in Illinois. When the sun shines down and the world starts to blossom back to life, many people find themselves thinking about getting a fresh start. Spring is about rebirth and renewal. The warm weather can be a great motivator to finally tackle the projects you put off during the winter months.

For many, the dawning of spring means just one thing — it’s time to break out the checklist and the broom, and do some much-needed spring cleaning.

Spring is a particularly important time for seniors living at home. This season is a great chance to get rid of unwanted clutter, reorganize, and bring a messy home back to life. Completing a few simple tasks can empower older adults to age in place comfortably, safely, and independently for months and years to come.

What should be on the spring cleaning “to-do” list for seniors and their family? Here are five ideas to kickstart the process for the easiest and most productive spring cleaning ever:

1.) Clear Out the Clutter

Decluttering is one of the most important things you can do to help keep an older adult’s home safe, clean, and livable. During the spring months, find some time to get rid of the things that your loved one doesn’t need. You can get rid of excess clutter by throwing it away, selling it, recycling it, or donating it to a charitable organization — just as long as it’s out of the way!

Clutter can cause serious problems for seniors. Over time, piles of debris can become breeding grounds for dust, mold, and bacteria, which can make the household less healthy and increase the likelihood of an older adult getting sick. Clutter can also present hazards. Large, precarious piles of objects or overstuffed bookshelves may fall and cause serious harm to your loved one. Similarly, loose objects on the floor may lead to slip and fall accidents, which can be devastating for seniors.

In many cases, older adults may prove resistant to getting rid of things. As you start to declutter, your loved one may argue that many objects around the house may have some sort of sentimental appeal to them.

Work with your loved one to create a checklist of things that can be removed from their home without issue. During your conversations about decluttering, try to emphasize the positive. For instance, you can say that you’re freeing up more space for new memories, such as items created by grandchildren.

You may not be able to get rid of everything this spring, but take heart. Remember, making even a small dent in clutter can have a big impact for your loved one’s health and safety, so keep at it.

2.) Focus on Safety

For a spring cleaning that has a lasting effect, focus on making your senior loved one’s home safer and more accessible.

One major task you may be able to tackle, especially with your loved one’s input, is to reorganize their home. Along with getting rid of clutter, reorganizing is one of the biggest things you can do to make a senior’s living environment safer and more convenient.

For one thing, it’s important that your loved one always has a clear, unimpeded pathway to move around the home. You can also move furniture and storage to make things more accessible for older adults. For instance, you can reorganize to ensure that your loved one’s favorite and most-used things are within reach at arm’s level, so that they won’t have to do a lot of stooping or stretching every day. Similarly, you can reorganize furniture so that your loved one’s favorite chair is near the phone or an emergency exit. You and your senior family member may even want to move their upstairs bedroom setup to the ground floor, so your loved one won’t have to navigate the stairs every day.

Meanwhile, your spring cleaning “to-do” list should also include checking on all of the safety features around your loved one’s home. Spring is a great time to check the home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and sprinklers. Test windows and doors, to make sure they’re all safe and usable.

One safety task that often goes overlooked? Make sure your loved one’s most important documents — including emergency phone numbers, medication lists, medical records, legal documents, and estate planning paperwork — are all on-hand and accessible, so you and your family know how to quickly get to your loved one’s information in the event of an emergency.

3.) Clean Out the Bathroom and Kitchen

What’s a good spring cleaning without spending some time wiping down the bathrooms and kitchen? When left unattended, these areas can quickly become a haven for germs, bacteria, mold and mildew.

During your spring cleaning rundown, make sure you take some time to really sanitize the surfaces in your loved one’s kitchen and bath, including countertops, mirrors, fixtures, and appliances. Spending some time making these spaces more hygienic can help your loved one avoid falling ill down the line.

While you’re in these rooms, consider adding some basic safety upgrades, which may make things easier for your loved one with limited mobility. In the bathroom, for instance, grab bars in the bath and next to the toilet can make sitting and standing much easier. In the bathroom and kitchen, adding non-slip mats and extra lighting can make it much safer for your loved one to get around.

Finally, make an effort to declutter in these rooms, as well. In the kitchen, make sure your loved one’s shelves and cabinets are clear, and go through the fridge and pantry to get rid of expired food. In the bathroom, focus on getting rid of expired medications.

The more you can do to make these spaces cleaner and safer, the more use your loved one will get out of them.

4.) Make It a Social Event

Seniors and family caregivers, remember: You don’t have to tackle spring cleaning all alone!

In fact, spring cleaning can be a great time to bring family and friends together. While you tackle your common goal of cleaning the house, you can also have fun, play games, and swap stories. For family members involved in their loved one’s caregiving network, this is also a good time to catch up, and discuss any changes to your loved one’s care plan that should be addressed.

If it’s difficult to bring family and friends together, you can still get the help you need to really make a big impact on your senior’s home. Your loved one’s professional caregiver, for example, may be able to pitch in with light housekeeping. Similarly, you may want to bring in a professional cleaning crew to get the “dirty work” done. Bringing on professionals can make things a lot easier and quicker, and can make for a thoughtful gift for your loved one.

Similarly, if you have a busy schedule or a limited time window, you may want to look into bringing in experts for the toughest jobs, which you can’t or don’t have time to tackle solo. Because it falls between the frigid days of winter and the steamy summer, spring is a prime time to call in help for major home jobs, such as servicing HVAC systems, completing extensive landscaping or yard work, or doing major plumbing repairs.

5.) Use This Time to Take Stock

Spring is a wonderful opportunity to refocus on the most important things in life. As you visit your older family members to help them with their spring cleaning, you may want to spend some time assessing their home environment for changes and potential risks.

In many cases, taking a long look at your loved one’s home and lifestyle can help you see the “yellow flags” that an older adult may need some additional support. As you dive into spring cleaning, watch out for any changes in your loved one’s appearance and behavior. For instance, have they seemingly given up their grooming or personal hygiene routines? Have they lost a lot of weight? Do they seem socially withdrawn or isolated? Do they experience mood swings? Are they moving gingerly or slowly? Similarly, observe their living conditions. Have they given up on routine housekeeping? Is their home dirty? Have they stopped taking care of pets, or bringing in the mail?

All of these personal and environmental changes may be signs that it’s time to look into additional help. For many families, home care will be the most effective option, empowering your loved one to remain in the comfort and safety of their own home, while giving them the social attention and support they need to live life to the fullest.

About Companions for Seniors

Winter, spring, summer, or fall, Companions for Seniors is here to be your go-to resource for all things senior care. Be sure to get in touch by phone or online if you think your senior loved one could benefit from some extra help and attention around the house.

At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help senior adults lead active and enriched lifestyles, by connecting them with their community and nurturing meaningful relationships.

Our trained and bonded companions are passionate about empowering the elderly to live more independently. Our companions offer flexible schedules to spend time and give help to the senior in your life. Whether your loved one needs transportation services, a helping hand around the house, or just a friendly face nearby to play games and swap stories, our caregivers can help give your senior loved one the personalized attention and support they need — while giving family caregivers a much-needed chance to rest and recharge.