Posted by: Bert Copple | June 30, 2010

Help Seniors Get Rid of Clutter

Home Instead Senior Care is the best answer when it comes to helping seniors keep a clean and organized living space.

“A lifetime accumulation of possessions combined with an influx ofdaily junk mail, bills, newspapers and magazines can quickly overwhelmseniors who are struggling physically, mentally or emotionally,” saidMike Melinger, owner of the Skokie-based division of Home InsteadSenior Care, which serves seniors on the North Side and the North Shore.The provider, which has independently-owned branches in 15 countries,offers non-medical in-home care services including: companionship, mealpreparation, medication reminders, light housekeeping, errands andshopping.

Seniors who simply don’t know how to part with their possessions arevulnerable, Melinger said. The risks are many, from slipping on loosepapers and potential fire hazards to the health effects of mold, mildewand dust. Clutter also can interfere with family relationships and leaveadult children wondering if the only inheritance awaiting them is a bigmess.

To identify potential trouble, the Home Instead Senior Care networkis alerting family caregivers to watch for the signs in a senior’s homethat indicate clutter creep could become a problem — piles of mail andunpaid bills, difficulty walking safely through a home and frustrationon the part of a senior trying to organize.

“Family caregivers can become just as overwhelmed as seniors,” saidMelinger. “We suggest a three-step plan where the family caregiverbrings three bins — one for the stuff the senior wants to keep, one fordonations to resale shops and nonprofit groups, and the other fortrash. Sometimes seniors just need a little help.”

Here are some other tips on senior de-cluttering from Home InsteadSenior Care and the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (

• Kitchen: Go through pots and pans in cupboards and organize them ordiscard those items that aren’t needed. A senior can fall trying to getto things buried deep within the cabinets.

• Refrigerator: Discard old and expired food and condiments toeliminate potential health problems and food poisoning.

• Bathroom: Throw away expired medications and old makeup. Organizeshelves so that items are easily accessed.

• Bedroom: Confusion and disorganization may be caused by too muchclothing in the closet. It’s also a potential fire hazard.

• Stairways: Make sure nothing is on the stairway to cause tripping.

• Basement: This is a catch-all place for everything, includingrodents, mold and mildew. Clean it up and throw away items not beingused.

• Cheer victories: Spend a short time helping the elderly do minorchores like cleaning the kitchen table. Then celebrate theaccomplishment.

• Experiment: If a senior has, for example, 150 empty margarine tubcontainers, suggest donating some of them to a school for an artproject.

• Gentle approach: Remind seniors that too much clutter mayjeopardize their ability to stay in their home.

• Agreement: Settle on boxing up used clothing or tools. Carefullylist what’s in the box and track that for six months. If a seniordoesn’t use the items in that time, suggest they donate them to charity.

• Control: Clutter is all about control, but so is being the one todecide where stuff goes. Remind seniors that if they don’t decide whatto do with clutter, someone else will.

SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times


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