Elderly people require special attention
Elderly doesn’t mean old. We are going to consider elderly as early as 70+ years. Some people are spunky and not elderly at all in their mid-80s but the average age for the elderly in the house cleaning industry is going to be 70+.
Here are a few things to consider when house cleaning in the home of an elderly person.
Their stuff is going to be old. Lots of elderly people have been saving things for half a century or more. And all of the things they’ve saved have importance and value to them.
Cleaning and caring for antiques
The finish is worn and scratched. It’s a good idea not to use any chemicals on the wood. Just a damp non-scratch microfiber cloth to wipe away dust, or when possible a Swiffer Duster.
The legs on lots of the furniture will be broken and may have been repaired or it may just be sitting there propped up. Move this type of furniture with the utmost care if you have to move it at all.
Take extra precautions not to bump the legs with a vacuum cleaner. And don’t set any cleaning bottles on any antique surfaces.
Space may be tight in the smaller homes that the elderly have downsized into, and rooms may be crowded with books, photos, antiques, etc.
There will be lots of framed photos of family and friends that will fill the piano, bookshelves and every flat surface in the home – which will require lots of dusting.
Lots of these frames are aged as well and will most likely fall apart when picked up to be dusted.
Note: Pick up the photos while assuming the back is not connected. If it is connected, great. But if it’s not, the glass will slide out, and the frame will fall apart. Dust it carefully and put it back exactly where and how you found it.
The elderly may be collectors of knick-knacks and trinkets. Most of which will seem like junk to you, but to them — they are priceless gifts from grandkids and other family members.
For this reason, it may take longer to clean the houses of the elderly, although the physical space may be smaller since they’ve downsized.
Mobility aids for the elderly
The elderly often have mobility aids provided by medical companies to make their agility easier. These items are used on a daily basis, and need to be washed and sanitized like any other piece of weight equipment or furniture. Don’t be afraid of medical equipment. It is a natural part of getting old. If you see something you are unfamiliar with, ask the client what it is, and the best way to clean it.
Lots of the equipment is made of sturdy resin or plastic, stainless steel or aluminum bars with rubber feet. Lots of this can be washed down with water and vinegar, or a sudsy soap and rinse. Learn to recognize the various types of mobility aids and get familiar with how to fold, move, disassemble and clean them.
|Drop arm commode||Bath transfer bench|
|Suction grab bar||Pole & curved grab bar|
|Power stand lift||Medical Bed|
Elderly Pets are members of the family
It is common for these elderly animals to have bladder problems and frequent accidents. You’ll find animal urine and poop in places outside the litter box and the elderly clients aren’t able to get down on their hands and knees to clean it up.
The elderly people don’t want to live in a house that smells of animal urine – and when you arrive, you may find clumps of baking soda sprinkled on the floor, carpet stains, and so on. This too is a natural part of the aging process. Don’t let it freak you out.
The good news is that the “elderly” demographic have a lot of money and buying power. They are on the internet and connected to the neighborhood apps like NEXTDOOR and MyNeighborhood and will give you some of your best referrals.
Treat all elderly people and their pets with the same respect you would like to receive when you are old.
When working in a home with elderly people or elderly pets, you can’t move around as quickly as you would in a larger home when no one is around. The space is much more crowded and you run the risk of knocking things over if you move too quickly. Not to mention that you might scare the people or their pets. You need to budget proper timing for an elderly person’s home – though the home may be smaller, if it’s got lots of trinkets and you’re moving slower, it’s going to take you longer to clean properly.
When you arrive for the cleaning, it is important to take a minute to remind the client why you are there and to find out if there are any special needs of the day. Most people will be coherent and put you to work – but this is really an assessment of the well-being of the client. We typically spend 60 seconds upon arrival at any normal home in chit-chat with the customer, but plan on 3-5 minutes really connecting with the elderly before going about your work.
You are now a detective – and you need to look for clues. Are they slipping mentally? Do they repeat themselves or repeat conversations you’ve had before? Do they know who you are? Are they forgetting obvious things like paying you when are ready to leave?
Look for signs of abuse and neglect or clumsiness. Are they showing signs of dramatic weight loss? Is there bruising? Have they tripped or fallen? Is there a piece of furniture that is difficult to navigate that you could move for them? Do you need to report spousal or care giver abuse?
If so, you can reach the Eldercare Locator by the Department of Health and Human Services by telephone at 1-800-677-1116 or online. Specially trained operators will refer you to a local agency that can help. The Eldercare Locator is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
You may need to isolate a couple living together in order to have a private conversation to see what is really going on that may need your intervention.
A woman I worked for had constant bruising. One day when her husband was out walking the dog, I gently asked if she felt safe and needed some help. She insisted she kept falling, her balance was off, and she was clumsier than usual, but when she mentioned it to her husband he would get angry with her. He was not unkind to her, just freaked out that she was getting “old” and didn’t know how to protect her anymore from these falls. We were able to move some items she had placed out of arms reach, so she could reach them easier, and not have to use a step stool.
I was able with their permission, to contact their son and get a stair railing added to the side of the stairwell where there was no hand rail support. This made going up the stairs easier and safer for her. There may be changes that need to be made in the home, and this comes from being aware. One noticeable change for me was the shower head on a hose was continually left hanging in one house, rather than being hung back up. Not a big deal until I discovered the elderly woman who’d recently had a shoulder replacement couldn’t reach all the way up there to reach the shower head. From them on, we left it hanging for her convenience.
It is important that you do not take away the independence of elderly people you will be working around – and I should mention for most of the time you are there cleaning, they will also be at home. They don’t have really active social calendars, they are retired, and don’t have anywhere to go while you clean. So they will be at home and probably in your way. Just do your best to work around them.
A helpful tip is to tell them what you are doing before you do it.
“Alright, I just finished up in the kitchen and I’m going to come in and clean the living room now. Are you ready for me to come in there?”
I’ve also noticed from their calendars hanging on the walls that other than doctor’s appointments, I’m often the only thing they have to look forward to that week. If this is the case, make your time with them memorable, do your best to clean the place, be friendly, be compassionate, be aware, and leave everything better than you found it.
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