Clutter can be one of the first signs that your loved one needs help.
When you visit your mom, who normally has the house in near-mint
condition, and the house looks unkempt, you know something’s off. You
may have to play detective and interpret the clues. Seniors don’t
always ask for the help they need, so you can’t wait for her to make
the first move. If you think she’s struggling, it might be time to
consider whether she needs some more help.
The Impact of Clutter
Clutter poses a significant risk to aging seniors living alone at home.
The statistics are no surprise by now. Falls are
the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in American seniors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that
more than one in four seniors will fall each year, with 2.8 million
emergency room visits occurring as a result. Two years ago, the total financial impact of senior falls was
over $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid paid 75 percent of these
Falls lead to severe injuries, like hip fractures, broken bones and
brain injuries. They can also cause depression and isolation. The
National Institute on Aging (NIA) says that
the fear of falling often prevents seniors from leaving the house
If your senior falls once,
the risk of future falls double, and the possible health complications increase with each fall.
Seniors often have underlying health issues that can make them more
prone to falling and make potential injuries more serious. When you
consider poor eyesight, a misplaced item on the floor in a walkway can
become a big issue.
Clutter is problematic and could be a sign of underlying health
Clutter can be a sign that your mom isn't able to keep on top of
day-to-day housework anymore. If dishes are piling up in the sink, it
may be a matter of ability instead of motivation. Your parents may be
reaching an age where their
muscles and skeleton weaken; an occurrence called sarcopenia.
arthritis, a painful joint inflammation, are also more common in seniors and can
affect dexterity. Often, seniors
can be too proud to ask for help, or in denial that they need help.
This may be because they don’t want to be a burden on family or
friends, or because they fear that a change in routine might lead to a
loss of privacy and independence.
It may be that clutter is a sign that your loved one’s faculties are
diminishing. If your mom is missing steps in her usual daily routine,
like forgetting to vacuum or clear up after dinner, it could be an
early sign of dementia. Loss of initiative can manifest itself in ways
like forgetting housework, not carrying out basic personal hygiene
or forgetting to pay bills, can be tell-tale signs.
We all forget things, misplace car keys or mix up names, but regular
occurrences, particularly in an older person, could be a warning,
especially if any of
these other issues, like problems communicating, are also evident. If you suspect your loved one is exhibiting signs of dementia,
contact her physician.
A decline in the cleanliness of your loved one’s home could also be due
to depression or mental fatigue. Over
six million American seniors live with depression. Seniors are at more risk of depression for many reasons. As they age,
they don’t produce the same levels of chemicals like serotonin that
help balance moods.
Physical problems, like loss of mobility, can
cause them to become isolated and loneliness can be a prime cause
of depression. Boredom can be a factor and seniors also face many issues that can be
upsetting, like the loss of friends and loved ones, and facing their
As with dementia, if a general malaise and lack of effort around the
home is accompanied by
other signs of depression, like weight loss, sudden mood changes
and trouble sleeping, it may be wise to contact a medical professional.
How to Help
Maybe friends and family could help your loved with housework if
needed, but remember, this may be a long-term commitment. Of course,
you can pick up after your loved one, but that may not address the
underlying causes of the clutter in your loved one’s home.
A professional caregiver can help your mom with housework, either by
carrying out tasks that she physically can’t manage or by offering
gentle reminders of the tasks still to be done if she is determined to
do them herself. If your loved one is determined to live at home as
mental faculties wane, professional home care can see to it.
And if the clutter in your loved one’s home does become evidence of a
deeper problem, a professional caregiver can help with those
conditions, too. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia,
a caregiver can
help her keep up with her daily routine and also offer stimulation
to help to slow the advance of the disease, while watching for
signs of the condition deteriorating.
If your loved one is depressed,
a professional caregiver can help her to be active and to
socialize, either by offering companionship or by enabling
interaction with her peers.
Whatever the reason for the clutter in your loved one's home, the time
to act on it is now. It may be indicative of underlying problems that
must be addressed.
Discover more risks posed by clutter by
and learning how to fall-proof an elderly loved one's home.