“Spring Cleaning” for Seniors

A few weeks ago, most of us “sprung” our clocks ahead one hour for daylight savings time. It’s at this time of year we see reminders to change the batteries in our smoke alarms, and people begin to talk about spring cleaning. An article on Medical News Today urges a different type of spring cleaning for seniors — reviewing the items in your loved one’s medicine cabinet to check for expiration dates, unused medications, and other potential hazards, like pills that have been compromised due to moisture.

This got us thinking — spring is a great time of year to think about taking stock of the overall safety of your loved one’s home. We’ve put together a list of some important items you should check at least bi-annually to help your elderly or disabled loved ones maintain their independence and safety.

  • Take stock of the medicine cabinet, as suggested by Medical News Today. Check all items for expiration dates. Are the medications stored in their own containers? Are they stored in a cool, dry place? Discard any unused medications.
  • Replace the batteries in all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Run a test to ensure they’re working.
  • Check to make sure the home has a fire extinguisher that has been inspected within the past year. Offer a brief instruction on using the device. Even if you think your loved one might not remember, it’s wise to keep a fire extinguisher in an obvious location easily accessible to friends, relatives or neighbors.
  • Clean up clutter. Clutter increases the risk for falls, fire and other problems such as insects or rodents. Remove unnecessary furniture that obstructs the traffic flow, organize cabinets so that the most frequently used items are easily accessible, and throw away any old items from the pantry or refrigerator.
  • Create an emergency plan. Set the speed dial on the phone for emergency contacts. Appoint a neighbor as an emergency backup. If your loved one lives in a senior apartments complex, find a friendly neighbor and implement the buddy system; they should each keep an eye out for problems and have contact information for one another’s emergency contacts.

More helpful safety tips, especially for those with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, can be found in Dementia Safety in Your Loved Ones Home. If you’re finding some items of concern during your spring cleaning process and think your loved one might need additional assistance, check out Assisted Care: 5 Signs a Loved One May Need It.

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