by francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Dear Francy; My parents are caring for each other in their own home, I go over every other day. The mess is driving me nuts, its like they do not even see it. I try to pick up here or there and they both get upset. Got tips?
Yep, I have tips. Remember when you were in your early teens and your room was a mess 24/7 and you mom would say – “Just because it’s Saturday you do not get to go out before you clean your room.” – Remember? Well, you’re becoming the mom, for them now and you get to make the clean-up rules. Life can not be dirty for seniors, they will get unwell, get depressed, take a fall over the piles of papers and have rodents infest their home with food stuffs piling up in garbage cans.
* If they have money – that does not mean wealth, just enough money for comfort. Then a twice a month maid service is best to start. Take your budget and call a few services and ask them how much time you would get for the money you have available. These places are bonded and their staff is not going to take things from the house, they are trained to clean fast – in & out. I always concentrate on the kitchen and the bathroom, those are places older people can not see well enough to keep clean. Then if the budget allows the living areas can be dusted and vacuumed. But you at least know that once or twice a month, the kitchen and bath have been well cleaned and the garbage taken out and the place will feel so good to your mother.
* If the cleaning service is too much, there is another way. You can find a gal in the neighborhood or your faith center that is either a retired lady or a young mother trying to stay home with her kids. Ask them if they are open to cleaning the house for your budget amount. You will find that they will do just as good a job, and do it for less. The problem, can you trust them with the safety of the house? Just remember, teenagers come with friends that can break and enter homes. They can see money or jewelry that is easy to take and they take it. So, if you stick to an older gal that respects things and is known by your parents or you, or a young mother that simply wants a few dollars for extra gas money…you should find them OK for the job. But, any time you have people in the home, you need to do a quick removal of anything big that could be taken. So, tell your mom the jewelry is going in the lock box at the bank. Your father’s watch is there too and when they go out to a fancy funtion (which I bet is very rare these days) you will retireive them.
* The best way to deal with the current mess in the living areas is to tackle it while they are out. Much less fuss. Rule one, nothing gets thrown out. You simply put all the newspapers and magazines in a container for the recycle and place it in the garage. It has to be in the garage, not in the house. So, if your dad wants to walk all the way out to the garage to get the recycle, he will think twice about it. Then you dust and move the furniture for a good vacuum. You may want to bring your vacum over so it has plenty of suction. Then you make sure you add something, like flowers on the table tops – just stop by the grocery store and get a mixed flower bouquet and put it in little glass containers on a couple of the tables in the living area. That will perk it up and make it all look and feel good.
* If you see they have pill bottles all over the place, that has to change. Bring them into the kitchen and divide them up with your mother’s in one basket and your dad’s in another. Then see if they have daily pill sorters. If not, you need to run out and get one for each of them and put their name on each one with finger nail polish. Most drug stores will use different colors for couples so they can keep their pill bottles separate. If this has not happened use a rubber band on all of your dad’s pill bottles. That way they can easily see the difference between them. This way; pills are sorted and arranged for taking twice to four times a day – once a week. This means the actually pill bottles stay in the baskets in the kitchen up on a safe shelf (away from the sink – where the steam can get to them) You then can sort the pills once a week on one of your visits and they can have their daily pill box right next to their chairs in their living area.
* Wash – the clothing thing is hard for older people that get unwell. Some times they have an accident and they have soiled things and that is embarrasing. But, that is even more important to make sure the dirty clothes are in containers, not on the floor. This is important to keep the spread of germs down to nothing in their home. So, you will have to make a space for their dirty clothes in their bedroom and the bath. I got a very large garbage can with a swinging lid that was cylindracal and put in the bathroom. I lined it with a very light plastic bag, so all I had to do was pull out the plastic bag a couple of times a week and keep those things going in the washer while I was doing other things around mother’s home. I had to buy a timer…so when I left and the drier was still going -I would set the timer and put it by her chair. She would then go and get her clothes and do the folding and the process meant we both shared a little of the work and it made it easier for my mother to live on her own a few years longer.
* I understand that papers and tools and gadgets have a place in the living area – when that is the only room someone spends their time. So, what I did for mother was buy a couple of baskets that were easy to pick up and empty, or take out to the work area to retrun tools or sort through papers. It make it easy for mother and I am sure it will make it easy for your parents. You will see that they will throw things in the basket and forget them. So, your cleaning them out, will not be a big deal on your visits.
* Walking around and spraying the channel changers, the wall switches, the oven handles, the telephones and cell phones and gettting those germs down to a minimum is just part of your visit once a week. As you get older, its a little like younger children, hands get dirty and germs start to migrate all over the place. This way, you have it under control. Let them be bothered, let them complain, just keep poking around and getting little things done here and there and you will find they will give in and relax and start to understand they raised a clean freak!
* Each season, do something that moves them toward a cleaner place. You might want to add an air cleaner to the living room or bedroom. That makes a huge difference for allergies and lung problems. You might want to add a water filter on their sink or just a little one for their daily water intake. Then the spring means you clean up their bedroom and get under the bed and change the mattrass and the fall means you clean the filter to the heater.
It does take you being creative but if you have a schedule, they will follow it and understand. So, instead of feeling bad, you simply have to take a mother stance and say, “we do this because I say“.
I know that you do not want to walk all over your parents, but this is an important time. If they are both unwell, they need you to keep them in their home. If they need you, they need to follow your lead and keep their surroundings clean and clear. They have to be able to walk and use their walkers, so that means no throw rugs or garbage on the floor. They have to be able to shower on unsteady legs. That means a good shower seat that they sit on outside of the tub and then move over into the tub and use a hand held shower. If you need to buy and put one in, you can do this on any current shower head. Get the hardware to expain the process and use low flow water heads to save on their water bill.
*Take things down from the tall cupboards in the kitchen and keep the used items close and easy to reach. Clean out the bathroom and get it up to date with new products and new towels. Make the house a place they enjoy and see as updated and fun, not as a place to protect against change. It will take your mind to think of ways to ease them out of old behaviors into to new ones. But you can do it. Keep a smile, keep yourself up and happy on your visits. Everytime a fuss is made, you just say, “I am doing this to keep you both safe in your own home, and this is what I need to do”. Being a strong daughter or son is not pleasant, but it is simply how the world changes when we age. Using love and creativity is the key. Making them laugh over newspapers that are two years old, making them not even know you have slipped a laundry in the wash and cleaned up the refrigerator when you put away the groceries you bought. That is how it is done, sneaky, but with lots of love.
Thank you for all you are doing to keep your parents safe and tucked into their home for a few more years. Please go to my website and enjoy other ideas that may be of help for you and if you get to a place that you need an advanced care center for your parents, let me know. I have a free service to help you with that too. www.seniorcarewithspririt.com