A well-organized household makes life easier for elderly parents who want to live independently at home.
Isn’t it amazing how much stress can be removed from your daily life when your home or workspace is neat and clean? I’ve found I can’t get my best work done until my area is organized and de-cluttered. It just makes my tasks easier when I know precisely where to go for everything I might need.
Organization is even more important in old age. We’ve found that the ability to control the day-to-day occurrences of your life is crucial to aging in place. Elderly parents and loved ones need their most-used items, such as food, medications, and cleaning products, to be easily accessible. This is especially true when physical limitations common to older people come into play, such as vision impairment and arthritis.
Here are our three crucial tips for adult children who would like to help Mom or Dad get their home organized:
1. Assess your elderly parent’s home.
A good first step in improving your older family member’s environment is making a list (written or mental) of the things you suspect might be causing difficulties. Concentrate on the areas where they spend the most time.
Some problems we often see in the homes of the elderly:
- Kitchen cabinet messes
- Refrigerator disorder
- Unreachable items on top shelves
- Food or toys spread out in pet areas
- Difficult-to-reach storage in laundry rooms
- Fire risks
- Too many coats in the front closet, or winter items stored too high
- Home office clutter on the desk and disorganized files
- A jam-packed bathroom vanity or medicine cabinet
- Dangerously stacked bookshelves
- Fall risks in hallways or on the stairs
- Magazines and mail stacked in the living room
After you decide which areas could use the most attention, it’s time for the most important step:
2. Have a discussion.
A conversation must precede any attempt to reorganize your elderly parent’s home. It’s crucial to put away your cape and offer them the respect they deserve.
Instead of insisting that Dad start replacing furniture or throwing away old magazines, start by asking him about issues he might be having. The ensuing discussion will likely reveal problems caused by clutter or disorganization.
For instance, you might mention you were looking for his favorite snack in the cupboard but couldn’t find it because of all the expired canned goods in the way. Or you might ask where he’s been keeping the pill bottles or filing important medical papers.
Remember, your parent is the authority on what he wants. It’s important to respect his wishes.
3. Identify the biggest problems, and find solutions.
When a problem presents itself (for example, “I haven’t made time to organize that medicine cabinet in years!”), ask this key follow-up question: “What would make that easier for you?”
At this point, try suggesting your ideas. Be sure to focus on how they will make it easier for your elderly parent’s day-to-day life. Instead of saying, “You really need to get rid of all this old stuff,” try focusing on a desired outcome by offering, “I think we could find a way to make this less of an issue for you.”
Need some inspiration? Here are some of the most popular solutions to clutter that we recommend to the families of our senior home care clients:
GIVE AWAY, DONATE OR THROW OUT UNNEEDED “STUFF.”
It’s often a good idea to involve other family members in this process, so you can reminisce together. Be sensitive to your other family members’ wishes. Everyone has their own way of sifting through clutter. Consider taking and uploading digital photos of sentimental items—that way you can free up valuable space while still storing images of the items for nostalgic viewing later on.
WIDEN HIGH-TRAFFIC AREAS BY RELOCATING FURNITURE.
Is your Mom’s favorite rocking chair making it difficult to walk through the living room? Is the side-table’s only function to provide a place for dust to collect?
It may be jarring to move furniture that has been in the same place for years, but sometimes it’s simple changes like this that make the biggest difference.
THINK ABOUT RENOVATIONS.
Sometimes a bigger change is needed to keep an elderly parent living as safe as possible at home.