From safety concerns to ease of living, it’s important for seniors to get organized. However, it can be hard for them to tackle this task alone. By lending a helping hand you not only can help make their living space a better place for them, you can also enjoy some quality time, getting to know your loved one on a whole other level hearing all the stories behind that silly hat or funny photo. Here are some tips for you as you help your seniors get organized.
Where to start
As you get going, the first step should be taking inventory. Whether they live in a large home or a small apartment, it’s important to know where the most attention is needed. Go room by room, closet by closet, and make a list in each room of the clutter that needs to be cleared. Try the “Take 10 method” by going into each room and eliminating 10 items big or small no longer of use. This can be outdated newspapers, magazines, mail/bills or a half dead plant. Right away you can see progress happening. Once the list is made, tackle the task one room at a time otherwise this project will be overwhelming. As you go, remember to keep calm and not stress out, rather just be focused on the stages of the clean out. Each room can take a day, a week or a month. It can help to look at the list and pick one to two items at a time, and go for it until the room is done. For example, clean off one end table or one kitchen counter. The satisfaction of a lightened up space is so refreshing that you’ll be motivated to keep going. Have some boxes or bags at the ready to discard/recycle, donate to charity, give to family members or throw away.
As you move from room to room, stay focused and don’t get overwhelmed. Follow these space specific strategies:
In the medicine cabinet look for out dated prescriptions or ones no longer needed. Over the counter medicines can pile up and expiration dates need to be checked. Discard these in zip lock bags or save for community drop of days. Never flush down the toilet as they can be harmful to the water supply and the environment. This is also a good time to start a comprehensive list of current medications, listing all doctors’ names and dosages. Keep that list updated.
Sort through Mom’s lotions, perfumes and old cosmetics, especially lipsticks and mascaras, as they can harbor bacteria and the lotions can become rancid and no longer be safe. Might also be time for a new toothbrush and how nice to make sure towels are fresh without holes and are still absorbent. Consider installing grab bars in the tub, next to the toilet and anywhere else that will help them stay safe while bathing.
Time to attack the refrigerator for expiration dates on condiments since they tend to get lost in the abyss. Check for old leftovers long forgotten in back corners. You don’t want your loved ones to get sick from eating old foods. Get them some tape and a marker to write dates on the containers when they place in them in the refrigerator. Leftovers should be kept one to three days and then thrown out. When they cook meals yielding leftovers, it’s a good idea to freeze them for another day. This way they won’t be throwing out food and can still eat well without wasting money in the process. Don’t forget to label and date food going into the freezer. This will also give them a variety of foods to eat for a healthy diet.
The pantry should also get a good once over for old foods. When was that can of soup purchased anyway? Take everything out and inventory for future meals, expiration dates and old stale snacks. Rotate the items putting new purchased foods in back of the shelves and the older ones in front. This will keep them safe and the foods updated. Organize shelves for easy access putting most used foods on lower shelves so no step stools or chairs needed to get the top shelve items. You can purchase a long handled grabber to help reach higher items. Try putting crackers and cereals in zip lock bags to keep them fresh and the pesky bugs out.
Check their night table for medicines, does it have a flash light for the drawer, box of tissues and space for a cup of water. Thing like these items are helpful to have handy during the night so they won’t have to get up and potentially trip in a dark room. Seniors frequently wake during the night so a table lamp, a clock and maybe a book to read at the ready helps to keep them from wandering in the dark.
This is a good time to check their bed linens, pillows and mattress, they all deserve a once over as well. They only need two sets of bed linens, one on the bed and one in the laundry. Clean out the linen closet for old, tattered linens to reduce clutter. Mattress pads help to save the mattress from stains and can easily be washed. If incontinence is an issue, consider purchasing waterproof pads to place on the bed, too.
Get rid of throw rugs as they are a trip hazard. Make sure clothes are hung or put in drawers as they clutter a room and can be a fall hazard. Try to imagine walking in the room in the dark and move any unnecessary furniture or knickknacks to make the space as safe as possible.
When sorting through papers you can help to organize important paperwork in a binder with plastic sleeves. Talk to loved ones about where important documents are like their life insurance policy, mortgage papers, car note or military discharge papers so you can gather and keep altogether in a safe place. Do they have a will? How about the all-important medical directives and funeral arrangements? This can be a harder task to tackle, but when the time comes, you will be relieved that you are not searching all through their house to find them.
This is a good time to throw out the owner’s manuals for the lawn mower or other items they no longer own or go through the pile of receipts for last year’s holiday presents. Talk to your loved one about what is important to them. The many birthday cards from family and friends which are their precious memories have to be saved, but keep them in one area in a box.
Photos should be organized as well. Try creating albums where you can label them for easy identification to keep their legacy accurate. This can also help protect them over time, and will make it easier for your loved one to look through and enjoyed cherished memories.
Helping your aging loved ones get and stay organized is a task that will pay off in so many ways. Also, when you engage them in getting organized, it will give them a sense of purpose and allow you to spend quality time together. We’ve given you a few tips on how to tackle the clutter, but if you’d like to learn more or for help with any of your other work-life challenges, log in today.