Spring cleaning is a common tradition because we are ready to shake off the dust - quite literally - and start a fresh new season.
At this time of year, it’s a good idea to take a fresh look at your parents living situation. Your aging parents will want their home cleaned for the spring too, but they may not be physically able to do everything they used to do. A common first sign that your parents are struggling to live on their own is a decrease in their ability to care for their living space and themselves.
This isn’t an immediate cause for alarm, some decrease in our ability to do heavy lifting and other tasks is a normal part of aging. Taking a fresh look at your parents living situation is important for you to develop a baseline for understanding your parents’ health, but they shouldn’t be made to feel like you’re spying on them or judging them at every turn.
Always view your parents aging from a place of care and compassion - they raised you after all. Depending on the tasks they are struggling with, they may only need a cleaning service, landscaping assistance, or home care once or twice a week to continue living happily at home.
When planning a spring cleaning visit to your parents’ house, make cleaning the main focus of your visit. Spend some time catching up with them, and if you have time to begin the conversation of how they’re feeling as they’re getting older, that will be a bonus. If your visit looks and feels too much like an investigation, your parents might get offended or hurt.
Here are some tips to consider when helping your parents with their spring cleaning:
Before you start, ask them to make a list of everything they want to clean.
Your parents may have certain chores they want to accomplish, such as cleaning the garage and the fridge, or washing windows and putting away their seasonal clothes. You will want to prioritize items on the list that your parents cannot do alone - anything that involves heavy lifting or using a ladder.
Use their list to make sure you have all the required supplies and bring cleaning tools that have extendable handles to avoid the use of ladders or stools.
Consider additional chores that may not be on their list.
Some chores slip everyone’s mind, but they are important for health and safety.
These are tasks like cleaning the gutters, checking the roof, and testing safety equipment such as: smoke detectors, alarm systems, and carbon monoxide detectors.
Bring your whole family so the work goes faster and you can all have some fun while cleaning.
If you have children, bring them along because many hands make light work, and kids can help keep your spirits bright through mundane chores.
Time well spent with their grandkids will also be a fond memory for your parents.
Be there to help your parents, but don’t dictate what they can or cannot do.
Your parents may be getting older, but they don’t want to be considered frail or treated like children. They will still have their opinions about how they want their house cleaned, and they’ll want to be involved to avoid feeling useless.
Give yourself extra time to visit.
We are all chronically busy these days, so build in extra time or even an extra day for cleaning that will allow you to live in the moment. Building in extra time means you can make room for more conversations or deep cleaning and decluttering when appropriate.
If your parents are moving slower due to reduced mobility or aging, giving yourself extra time sets you up to stay patient. Avoid lashing out at your parents or scolding them for taking too long to do simple tasks. Sometimes this is easier said than done, so setting up extra time and mentally preparing yourself to take things slow will help.
Declutter and organize.
If you have time to declutter, encourage your parents to donate or sell items that they no longer need. Remember that some items may have sentimental value that you cannot understand. Don’t cause tension by trying to force your parents to declutter.
This is another scenario where extra time comes in handy so that you can reminisce about childhood memories, or listen to stories that your parents have never told you before. Regardless of what items are kept or discarded, organize everyday items in safe and easy to reach places.
While cleaning, locate and file important documents, such as: driver's license, banking information, will, elder care plan, etc. You may want to make copies of these important documents, or organize them in a fireproof safe.
Try to start the tough conversations.
If you haven’t had an honest and productive conversation with your parents about aging, test the waters during your spring cleaning and see if the time is right.
While you want to avoid causing tension with your parents, conversations about aging help your entire family plan and prepare for all circumstances. If you notice that your parents’ house is not being kept clean or safe, this conversation is even more important. Remember, you cannot force your parents into something they don’t want - approach this conversation from a place of love.
A few questions for you to consider include:
- How are your parents feeling in their home? Is it time to downsize?
- Do they have a plan in place for aging?
- If they need care will they want home care, to move to a senior living centre, or even to a nursing home?
Discuss these questions from your parents’ point of view; what do they want for their future? Don’t talk about their aging as something that will create more work for you; no parent wants to feel like a burden. These questions will get you started, but if you need more help preparing for your parents aging, give us a call at 1-800-85MAVEN.
Start a fresh new season for yourself and your parents. A season of quality time, loving family, and prepared aging. Prepared aging starts with an Elder Care Plan and we’ll discuss Elder Care Planning in our next blog post.