When helping an elderly person with house cleaning, it is important to remember to allow the elder in question to be in charge of the decision-making, as the subject touches on feelings of independence, pride and privacy. Ask your senior what help she needs; you should not force help upon anyone who does not want that help or step outside the scope of the help she’s asked for without first seeking her permission. Her idea of cleanliness and order may not match your own, but unless there exists a health or safety issue, abide by her wishes.
Offer the cleaning service as a gift. If you have an elderly friend or relative who refuses help out of pride, try offering cleaning services as a gift on a birthday or holiday. These may be services you perform or a service you hire to perform the tasks. The senior may find the help a positive experience and wish to continue accepting assistance.
Determine to be open and available. If you believe the person needs help despite his denial, offer an open invitation to assist. If you believe he would be better served by a community resource, offer the contact information for a local program, agency or organization that provides help for seniors. These resources may include churches, community volunteers or independent businesses who offer cleaning services.
Stock the house with cleaning solutions that will not exacerbate any medical conditions from which the elderly person suffers. Strong cleaning products such as bleach and ammonia create vapors that could irritate those with sensitive skin or respiratory systems. Substitute inexpensive, safe, simple household ingredients such as lemon juice, salt, baking soda and corn starch for harsh cleaning products.
Ensure that the elderly person has the proper cleaning tools on hand. The right tool makes the job easier and less risky. For example, a good scrub brush allows a senior to clean a bathroom surface without applying as much pressure or vigorous movement as would be required with a worn brush or plain cloth.
Perform any cleaning routines that require the use of harsh or caustic chemicals or use of cleaners that create irritating fumes while the elder is out of the house or while you are there to help with ventilation and to check the condition of the senior.
Place cleaning solutions and accessories within easy reach of those who have limited mobility. Store products on a waist-high shelf for those who cannot bend or move around freely; relocate accessories normally kept above shoulder level to a height that allows the elderly person to reach them without straining or climbing.
Offer to help with cleaning chores that require the elderly person to bend, kneel or exert themselves. Chores such as mopping, moving heavy items, cleaning in hard-to-reach areas and those that require a great deal of muscle strength to execute should be among the first with which you volunteer to assist.
- Patricia E. Kefalas Dudek & Associates; Elder Care Practice Tips; Sanford J. Mall
- The Caregiver Resource Center; When to Offer Help; Apr. 15, 2011
- Boca Home Care Services; How to Tell if Your Aging Parent or Elder Needs Assistance; 2010
- Utah State University Cooperative Extension; Ask a Specialist: Do You Have Tips for Making Cleaning Products at Home?; Carolyn Washburn; Mar. 20, 2009
- Photo Credit Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images