Simply put, a house that is well organized will make life easier for a senior who would like to remain in their own home as they age. Knowing that things are well organized and safe is also a relief for the family caregiver. So much stress can be removed from daily life when a home is neat and tidy. Many people cannot begin their day until their surroundings are decluttered. The organization of a home is even more important when old age is setting in. The ability to control day to day occurrences in life is vital to being able to age in place.
Elderly parents and other loved ones need the items that they use the most (food, medication, and cleaning products) to be easily accessible. This is especially important when a senior has a physical limitation such as a vision impairment or arthritis.
Assess the Senior’s Home
The first step to improving a senior’s living environment is to make a list of things that you suspect might cause them difficulties. Concentrate on areas in which they spend the most time. Some common problems seen in the homes of seniors include:
- Disorder in the refrigerator
- Expired food
- Disorganized and cluttered kitchen cabinets
- Items that can’t be reached on top shelves
- food or toys spread out in the pet area
- Wires and cords from appliances and electronics crossing walkways, creating fall risks
- Storage that is hard to reach in laundry rooms
- Winter items stored too high
- Bathroom vanity or medicine cabinet that is packed full, and sometimes with expired medications
- Bookshelves over stacked dangerously with books and knick-knacks
- Loose rugs on the floor that can easily slip or be tripped on
- Clutter causing trip and fall risks in the hallway or on stairs
- Difficult to access bathtubs
- Furniture too high or too low causing difficulties with seating and mobilization
- Laundry piled up to be washed or folded
- Faucets and door handles that are difficult to grasp or maneuver
Discuss the Potential Problems at Home with the Senior
Having a conversation with your elderly loved one is important before you attempt to reorganize their home on their behalf. By discussing your concerns with them and offering options and solutions, you allow their own input, and this gives them the respect they deserve. Rather than going ahead and replacing furniture or throwing things away, start by asking your elderly loved one about any issues they might be having with getting around, or completing tasks around the house.
This discussion can lead to a reveal of problems that are caused by clutter, disorganization, or poor accessibility. For example, you may mention that you were looking for a snack in the cabinet but couldn’t find a good one because of all of the expired boxes or canned goods. Sitting with them, you may go through the medications in their medicine drawer or cabinet one-at a time, and point out any expired meds, or items misplaced.
Assist the Senior to Address the Problem, In a Caring Manner
When a problem presents itself is the best time to ask follow-up questions about what would make the problem easier to deal with for your elderly loved one. That is the time to suggest your ideas. Make sure to focus on how they will put ease into the daily life of your loved one. You may even involve other family members in the process of going through items in the senior’s home, and decluttering. Make it a social affair, and a way to have everyone reminiscing about the past.
Accessibility issues can be corrected by having someone make the necessary technical adjustments around the home. For example, installing grab bars in washrooms, or, higher seats on toilets can make a big difference for the senior who wants to remain in their own home for as long as possible.
Suggest professional Home Care Assistance when an extra helping hand is needed for daily activities and tasks around the senior’s home. Having a personal support worker or home care assistant does not have to mean losing independence and autonomy. A respectful individual would know that he or she is there to assist as needed. Professional elder care also offers caregiver relief in Toronto or any place of residence when family members cannot always be around. Professional support helps to reduce stress and worry.
Remember to always be sensitive to the senior’s wishes because ultimately, they are the ones that will live in the home. The goal is to maintain safety by making the home better organized and more accessible to them and any limitations that they might have.