Many remember a time when the onset of milder weather meant days of scrubbing walls and floors, washing linens and airing out the house after a long winter.
While cleaning house has remained part of our culture, new products such as wipes, natural-ingredient cleaners and electrostatic dry mops and mitts make the annual job easier. But in spite of the innovations, spring-cleaning still involves indoor and outdoor chores that can be challenging to those dealing with vision loss, limited mobility, balance problems and other chronic conditions of aging.
Experts say clearing out clutter that has accumulated during the winter is a particularly important part of spring-cleaning. Caregivers caution that falls are the number one cause of emergency room visits and the leading cause of injury and deaths among people 65 and older. Falls can happen anywhere, but most falls by the elderly happen at home during daily activities in kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms and on the stairs.To ensure a safe spring, remove all tripping hazards, including piles of magazines, newspapers and books. Put away seasonal decorations. Repair any tears in linoleum or carpets. Remove scatter rugs and mats you may have placed by doorways to keep from tracking in snow and ice and any towels tucked along the bottom of doors to cut down on drafts.
Trade in scruffy slippers and bulky winter robes for better-fitting footwear and sleepwear. Use non-slip mats by all exterior doors, on bathroom floors and in tubs. Check for ice damage on outdoor steps, porches and walkways. If you find any, get someone in to do repairs immediately.
Family members can help older adults with spring-cleaning by organizing the task ahead of time, then pitching in with chores requiring heavy lifting or tasks requiring the use of ladders or stepstools. For starters, having the right cleaning tools and products on hand to clean floors, walls, furniture, fabrics, tile and other surfaces can make the whole job easier.
Following are a few additional suggestions to help seniors safely tackle spring-cleaning projects.
• Consider purchasing small, hand-held vacuums for seniors with mobility issues who can't use regular vacuum cleaners. The lightweight, battery-operated appliances are easier to operate and eliminate the risk of tripping over electrical cords.
• April showers can make outdoor surfaces slippery. Place non-slip strips on floors to help seniors avoid a fall if they plan on sprucing up porches, decks and patios.
• Draw blinds and remove heavy draperies if seniors plan on washing the insides of windows.
• Move lawn furniture back into place and remove hoses left stretched across the lawn or patio.
• Finally, check lighting and replace any burned-out bulbs and replace batteries in smoke detectors.