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3 Ways to Help an Older Loved One With Spring Cleaning

By Julie Hayes | 04/11/2019

With the arrival of spring comes the season of cleaning, decluttering and organizing the household. If we are caring for an older loved one, giving them a hand with their annual spring cleaning may not only make for a meaningful Easter gift, but can also help keep them safe and protected in their home. Here are three things we can do to help keep our loved ones homes clean and organized this season:  

1.    Clean up the medicine cabinet

Though we may hesitate to throw out medication due to its expense or importance to a loved one’s health, keeping old medications that have passed their expiration date may do our loved ones more harm than good. Many medications lose their effectiveness after they expire, which can negatively affect treatment of a loved one’s condition or symptoms. All medications past their expiration dates should be thrown out, and a loved one’s doctor should be consulted if any important prescriptions are out-of-date or in low supply.

To properly dispose of old medications, the U.S Food and Drug Administration recommends bringing them to a nearby take-back location found through the Drug Enforcement Administration’s online locator. To dispose of pills at home, the FDA has provided a step-by-step guide for safe trash disposal to minimize the risk of keeping old medications at home if there is no take-back option available near our home. Remember to also remove all personal information on the pill container by peeling off the label or covering the words in marker before throwing out the container

2.    Remove tripping hazards from the house

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults. Falls have resulted in over 2.8 million injuries treated in the emergency room annually, leading to over 800,000 fall-related hospitalizations. To help reduce a loved one’s risk of a fall, removing tripping hazards from the house should be a part of spring cleaning, and maintained year-round. Here are some areas to focus on when cleaning the house:

  • Remove clutter from the floor including shoes, electrical cords, toys and pet bowls, especially on stairs or in areas with high foot traffic
  • Avoid using throw rugs, and replace them with non-slip mats, especially in the kitchen and bathroom
  • Tape down any loose bits of carpet, and make sure worn carpeting is replaced as soon as possible
  • Examine each room for loose or uneven floorboards and schedule repairs immediately

To further prevent falls, we may also want to consider installing grab bars near the bath, toilet and stairs, and assuring that all areas of the house are well lit to improve visibility. National organization Age Safe America offers thorough and comprehensive home safety assessments to help us pinpoint areas in our home that are potential risks to a loved one’s safety.

3.    Organize and shred old documents

Daily life comes with a lot of paperwork attached, and our loved ones may have amassed a substantial collection of tax documents, bank slips and policies throughout the years. However, it may difficult to determine what should be kept and what should be thrown away. Most experts recommend holding onto tax documentation and any associated receipts for three years, since the Internal Revenue Service can only challenge tax filings within three years of the initial filing. Documentation for active policies and deeds, as well as any permanent documents such as birth certificates, Last Wills and Testaments, social security cards and marriage licenses should also be kept and stored in secured locations. We should make sure to ask our loved ones who should be made aware of where these documents are stored in the event of an emergency.
Financial records, tax documents, deeds and policies that are no longer current or active should be disposed of. However, improper disposal of sensitive documents can lead to identity theft due to the practice of dumpster diving. To prevent this, the US government recommends:

  • Using a paper shredder to destroy documents containing sensitive information. To further protect information, shredded paper can be disposed of in separate trash bags and removed from the household at different times
  • Cutting up or punching holes in old credit cards
  • Hiring a disposal company, especially if the volume of papers is too great to handle on your own. If you are unsure where these services are offered in your area, the Shred Nations locator can help you find shredding services close to home.   

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