Alzheimer’s and Dementia

We would be honored if you joined Team Aspen Senior Care for the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s! Every single individual makes a difference in raising awareness and every dollar raised brings us one step closer to finding a cure. 

The world may look a little different right now, but one thing hasn’t changed: our commitment to ending Alzheimer’s. This year, Walk to End Alzheimer’s is everywhere — on every sidewalk, track, and trail. Your health and safety are our top priorities. This year’s event won’t be a large in-person gathering — instead, we invite you to walk in small teams of friends and family while others in your community do the same. Because we are all still walking and fundraising for the same thing: a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. 

You can still engage with the larger Walk to End Alzheimer’s community on Walk Mainstage, the event’s online, interactive experience. You can log in any time to:

  •         Add a photo to the Promise Garden photo mosaic
  •         Connect with other participants, National teams, and sponsors
  •         Learn about Association resources
  •         Hear from monthly guest speakers
  •         Log in on Walk day to watch your local Opening and Promise Garden Ceremony

Visit Mainstage now and watch the welcome video to learn more

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the largest Alzheimer’s Association fundraising event of the year and is designed to help raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research. Participants sign up and create teams to walk and fundraise together.  We would love you to join our team and support our goal of *raising $500 towards this great cause. Signing up for a team is free — so join Team Aspen Senior Care today!


*Check donations should be made out to the Alzheimer’s Association. You can mail a check to the Alzheimer’s Association along with the form available on our fundraising page, or send your check donation to Aspen Senior Care (1385 740 E, Orem, UT 84097) and we can deposit it directly to the Alzheimer’s Association through the Walk to End Alzheimer’s mobile app.

For most of us, aging comes with increased health issues, thoughts of our own mortality and sometimes watching the ones we love—friends and family—pass away. It becomes very easy to fall into depression and depression can lead to a variety of physical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes. That’s where the power of positive thinking comes in. Positive thoughts condition our brain to think positively and our body follows the command of our brain.

For older seniors a caregiver plays an important role in maintaining positive thoughts and healthy aging. Caregivers are trained to watch for warning signs of depression like loss of interest in daily activities and restlessness. With careful observation, caregivers can help to stave off depression by offering companionship and promoting fun, happy, activities like gardening and dancing or offering transportation to social events and church.

Here are some tips to maintain a positive frame of mind—for both caregivers and their charges:

  • Cultivate enthusiasm. Do your best to be happy and not to indulge in negative thoughts. The glass can be half full or half empty—it’s always the same glass. 
  • Keep a sense of humor. Perhaps more than any other strategy, finding something to laugh about is an effective buffer for the difficulties we face in life.
  • Show gratitude. Everyday find something to be grateful for. The shoes on your feet. The food on your plate. The flowers in your garden.
  • Be compassionate. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Understanding leads to acceptance.
  • Be flexible. Understanding that things are not always going to go the way you would like and being comfortable changing course is a life skill worth practicing.
  • Have faith. Whether it be a belief in a force beyond yourself or the belief in the best possible outcome for a situation, maintaining faith in things beyond your control is crucial to a positive outlook.
  • Dream. Engage in “imagineering.” Set a goal. Aim high.
  • Learn from mistakes. If we approach life as an opportunity to learn and grow, even negative experiences provide a positive take-away.
  • Take joy in helping others. Helping others and touching lives can be a huge source of satisfaction in our lives. Knowing that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life can bring nothing but positive thoughts.
  • Cultivate acceptance. Work to accept adversity and disappointments—they are an inevitable part of our journey. If you can overcome and accept what you cannot change you will emerge the stronger for it.
  • Think “love” first. Develop a loving and forgiving attitude to everyone around you. It will come back to you ten-fold.
 — Written by Caren Parnes for The Senior’s Choice
Aspen Senior Care is a proud member of the Senior’s Choice Network

Aspen Senior Care has started 2020 with a bang! We are proud to announce that Aspen has received both the 2020 Best of Home Care® – Provider of Choice Award from Home Care Pulse and a Caring Star of 2020 Award from Caring.com. These awards are granted only to the top-ranking home care providers, based on client and caregiver satisfaction scores gathered by both companies. Aspen Senior Care is now ranked among a small handful of home care providers across the country who have proven their ability to provide an exceptional working experience to employees and the highest quality care to clients.

We want to congratulate Aspen Senior Care on receiving both the Best of Home Care – Provider of Choice Award,” says Erik Madsen, CEO of Home Care Pulse. “Since these awards are based on real, unfiltered feedback from clients and caregivers, Aspen Senior Care has proven their dedication to providing a great work environment and solid training to employees, while maintaining their focus on client and caregiver satisfaction. We are pleased to recognize their dedication to quality professionalism and expertise in-home care.”

Best of Home Care providers have contracted with Home Care Pulse to gather feedback from their clients and caregivers via live phone interviews each month. Because Home Care Pulse is an independent company, it is able to collect honest and unbiased feedback.

“We would like to thank our clients and their families for providing ongoing positive and constructive feedback throughout each year! We are so grateful to be in your service. We appreciate Home Care Pulse for recognizing us as 2020 Best of Home Care® – Provider of Choice and Caring.com for awarding Aspen with a Caring Star of 2020. We owe this to an outstanding team of caregivers and staff who continuously provide the highest quality of care to our clients and their families.”

-Gary Staples Owner and Administrator of Aspen Senior Care

About Aspen Senior Care

It all started in 2004 when Gary finally figured out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He’d been searching for two years looking to start his own business–something that would do good in the community, be fulfilling, and provide a service he could be passionate about every day. Senior care fit the bill! Our mission at Aspen is to help seniors live comfortably in their own homes for as long as they desire. We are caregivers you can trust.  We provide a no-cost, no-obligation assessment to see whether we’re a good fit for each other. During the assessment we answer questions, go over care options, and put together a personalized care plan to fit the client and family’s unique needs.

About Home Care Pulse

Home Care Pulse is the home care industry’s leading firm in satisfaction research and quality assurance. On behalf of home care businesses across North America, Home Care Pulse gathers unbiased satisfaction ratings from clients and caregivers and detailed feedback to ensure the best in-home care possible can be provided. Powerful online reports allow businesses to identify needs and take action to reduce increase satisfaction, reduce caregiver turnover, and address client needs. For more information, please call Home Care Pulse at (877) 307-8573 or visit homecarepulse.com.

About Caring.com

Caring.com exists to help family caregivers make better decisions, save time and money and feel less alone.

To find out more about Aspen Senior Care’s commitment to excellence, please visit AspenSeniorCare.com or call 801-224-5910.

So the “Aha” moment arrives. Circumstances make you realize two things. 1) I’m not as young as I used to be, and 2.) “Old age ain’t for sissies” as the great Bette Davis once said.

Gradually, or sometimes suddenly, it happens… we can’t keep up with household chores, we can’t see the street signs to drive safely, we give up cooking or we can’t walk without holding on to the furniture. And it begins, a nagging fear that we’re losing our independence. In fact, loss of independence is the biggest fear among seniors. So what is the typical senior response? Pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and keep on going, of course! Call in the kids to help out! Unfortunately, the kids have spouses and children of their own. And they have full-time jobs, not to mention they live out of town. It’s time for a new strategy.

Many seniors are finding the solution to remaining independent at home lies outside the family circle with paid caregivers. Steve Everhart, President of The Senior’s Choice explains, “Most seniors find caregivers in two ways. The old way is to run a classified ad or hire through a temporary service. The senior bear all the “employer” responsibility for this kind of caregiver. These folks are usually less expensive but there’s a lot of risks involved in hiring them,” Everhart says. The downside is:

  • It‘s difficult to find the right person.
  • You are responsible for performing a criminal background check
  • You are responsible for finding a replacement if the caregiver is absent
  • You bear the burden for withholding payroll taxes and providing state-mandated worker’s compensation coverage.
  • You bear the burden for liability problems like theft from or damage to your property.

The new way is to contract with a Companion Care Agency. These private agencies like Aspen Senior Care provide “in-home, non-medical care.” The number of agencies is growing quickly to meet the demands of a fast-growing senior population. They provide a wide range of services including light housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry, transportation, shopping & errands, and in many states including Utah, assistance with personal care. These one-on-one services can continue should the senior move into assisted living or even a nursing facility or hospital.”

Companion Care is usually available anywhere from a few hours up to 24 hours a day. Payment is private pay and may be covered by long-term-care insurance policies.

Some questions Everhart suggests you ask a Companion Care agency:

    1. Do they have references from other clients?
    2. What services do they provide?
    3. What training/experience do the caregivers have?
    4. How do they supervise their caregivers?
    5. Are the caregivers bonded and covered by workers’ compensation insurance?
    6. What is the schedule for service?
    7. What if I have a problem with a caregiver?
    8. Does the agency have an emergency or after-hours phone number?
    9. What are the financial arrangments?
    10. Who owns the company? Is it part of a larger organization?
    11.  Are the caregivers employees held accountable by the agency or ate they independent contractors accountable to no one?
    12. Does the agency carry Professional Liability Insurance?

The Pros:

  • Service is easily customized for each client’s needs.
  • Extensive hours available.
  • The staff is screened and supervised.
  • Agency is responsible for all employer tasks like payroll, taxes, liability insurance, workers’ compensation, bonding.
  • Agency is responsible for providing a replacement should the assigned caregiver fail to arrive or need a day off.

Everhart says, “This service is more expensive than independent caregivers but the right agency will provide the most customizable, reliable, worry-free, in-home service available.”

For more information on in-home care through Aspen Senior Care call 801-224-5910.


by AnNita Klimecka

The Senior’s Choice, Inc.

Holidays tend to add a higher level of confusion and stress for those experiencing a decline in cognition. A change in routine and busy gatherings can be overwhelming and confusing for your loved one. Long-term caregiver, Betty De Filippis, gives her tips regarding her experiences with her mother-in-law, Joan, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2013.

As the disease progressed through four years of caregiving, Betty learned many different techniques that aided — or hindered — Joan’s care. She learned how to help Joan more fully enjoy the holiday season with loving advice from friends, neighbors, and her family physician.  

Let others know what is going on 

“One of the first things that comes to my mind is to not be afraid to tell people what is going on. Explain why they are noticing a change in your loved one’s behaviors, so they understand how to better help or respond. I actually announced it one night at a church gathering of our friends and neighbors. It was so amazing how many people came to me later to offer their advice on how they handled similar experiences.”

Remember, it’s not only your loved one who will be experiencing change. Family from out of town, or those who may not see your loved one often, may be in for a shock when they see changes. Be straightforward and help them learn what may be helpful or not helpful. A family email before a get-together would be a great way to share some information and update your family regarding any changes they may experience.

Keep your expectations realistic and go with the flow 

Fun in caregiving

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Beesmurf)

Events or tasks that may have once been easy and enjoyable for your loved one tend to change when they begin to experience a decline in cognition. You may need to change plans due to your loved one’s struggles. Just slow things down and make sure they feel comfortable and included. Read their body language and give gentle cues to help them if they seem to be struggling.

“Some people at a more advanced stage of dementia may experience ‘realities’ that are not actually happening (hallucinations or delusions). Instead of trying to convince them what is real, ask them about the reality they are experiencing,” says Betty.  “If they ask questions, answer them honestly, but if they disagree, it will be ok if you just go with it. Help them do what they forgot how to do; if they want to do it another way, go with it. It shows caring and doesn’t embarrass them or confuse them further, which could cause them to feel frustrated and act out.”

Be respectful, patient, and kind 

“This is probably the best advice I ever received from our family physician, while he quite literally let me cry on his shoulder,” says Betty. Remember that at whatever stage of memory loss your loved one is experiencing, they are not acting out or being difficult on purpose. “This is not something they are doing to irritate others, they are not just being ornery. This is something that is happening to them. If it is hard and frustrating for us, think how much more difficult it is for them.”

Holidays are meant to be a time to cherish with loved ones. Although your loved one may be “different” than you’re used to, they are still the person they used to be — they are just dealing with a difficult disease. They are doing the best they can in a situation that may be too overwhelming for them to handle. In some cases, they may not even understand what it is you’re gathered to celebrate or why there are so many people there. Check in with them often, read their body language, and respond accordingly. Most importantly, remember to be patient, be kind, and enjoy your time together.

See Part Two Here

Seniors don’t often call saying they need in-home care. Many times they don’t realize they need additional help, and often they don’t even know it’s available. Usually one of their children seeks services because they’ve been helping their senior loved one and have noticed their needs have grown. Other times these adult children live out of town and come for a visit and are surprised by a few things going on in their parent’s home.

So, what are the signs that your elderly loved one might need some assistance at home? Here are the top signs we see:

1.  The house is no longer clean and organized like it used to be.

Common household chores can become overwhelming and tiresome. The vacuum becomes heavy and a pain to use for many aging seniors. Sometimes their eyes don’t see the dust and dirt like they used to. Other times your aging parents just don’t have the energy to keep up with the cleaning.

2.  You notice that medications are not being taken as they should. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (27707)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (27707)

They say that one out of every two seniors over 80 has some type of dementia or memory loss. Even without dementia, it can be hard to remember to take your medications day in and day out, especially if someone is not filling pill boxes every week. Days blend with other days and important medications get missed.

3.  The fridge has minimal or spoiled food and the freezer has a lot of frozen foods.

Many times seniors start turning to easily prepared foods and frozen dinners. I remember one family whose parents were surviving mostly on granola bars and popcorn. It was a sad situation for several months before the family found out and hired a personal care agency to help prepare some hot nutritious meals. Preparing, cooking, and cleaning up all take energy and willpower and many seniors begin lacking both over time.

4.  Your aging parents are having a more difficult time getting around the house.

Joints get painful and muscles start atrophying with many seniors as they sit more and move less. Some begin to stumble and fall, which of course can be very dangerous. We always say, “One fall can change it all!” because we’ve seen it so many times. It’s best to remove any fall hazards in the home, especially loose rugs and items that block pathways. Look at getting a cane or walker to help stabilize your parents as they walk and be sure that all ice is cleared from walkways during the winter months.

5.  Your loved one is coming home from the hospital or rehab after a major fall or illness. Lonely-Senior-Developing-Dementia

The saddest scenario is when an elderly parent comes home after dealing with a hospital stay and they are too weak to get around on their own. Both the kitchen and bathrooms can be especially difficult to navigate while trying to recover. There are so many hard surfaces, slick floors, and sharp edges in a bathroom and kitchen, so one fall can easily result in bad bruises and/or broken bones.

Hiring a personal care agency can make all the difference.

Changes to seniors can be hard to notice, especially if you see them every day or so. Family coming in from out of town usually notice certain changes right away, whether it’s a change in cognition or memory loss or just the cleanliness of the home. Asking for extra help blesses your loved one and you. If you are the primary caregiver, it’s important to recognize if you’ve been feeling worn down and overworked as this is a good indication you may need more help as well.

A personal care agency can make all the difference during these sometimes difficult transitions. It’s always better to seek help before the crisis hits. Although that’s easier to say than do, we encourage families to get a little extra help going as soon as possible. Then, when a lot more help is needed, your aging parent will already feel comfortable having more assistance in their home.

Contributed by Gary Staples, Owner of Aspen Senior Care

 

 

How can you find the fun in caregiving? It’s common to focus on certain aspects of your loved one’s care (safety, medications, finances, medical treatment, nutrition, etc.) Often you busy yourself with monitoring their progress (or decline) and doing everything in your power to keep them comfortable. Worrying about their reduced energy level, increasing fatigue, physical weakness and changing mental status is important. But it’s also important – for you both – to just have fun! Here are a few ways to laugh and live in the moment as you find the fun in caregiving together!

Fun in the home

You don’t have to go out to have fun. Activities are available in the home to enjoy. Keep favorite games handy. Whether a deck of cards, a jigsaw puzzle or a scrabble board, provide access to games that you can enjoy playing together. Try to set aside time to share some of these activities with him or her a couple of times a week, or set up get-togethers with his or her friends if possible. Set aside at least a day a week to watch a special movie together and make an “event” of it with popcorn and beverages.

Small outings

Seniors look forward to getting out, but as they age, they may no longer have the stamina or mobility for all-day trips. Still, they may be able to go out for an hour or two at a time. These can be outings that might seem every day to you: a trip to the supermarket or some local stores to window-shop. Adopt the old-fashioned concept of a “Sunday drive” through scenic areas or attractive neighborhoods that can culminate in a stop for a treat or a bite to eat. What does your loved one enjoy doing? If a gardener, take her to a local nursery or flower shop. How about to a bookstore or the local library for an avid reader? A local matinee is a great idea for a movie buff. A morning at the Farmer’s Market can be very enjoyable for those who love being outdoors and enjoying great food. All of these outings can be done in a couple of hours and provide your loved one with stimulation, a change of pace, and create enjoyable memories for you both.

Getting involved in the community

If your loved one is home-bound and has limited access to the stimulation of company beyond family members, consider finding community-based activities that he or she can enjoy on a regular basis. Most communities have senior centers that offer regular classes on topics of interest to him or her that generally only meet an hour or two at a time. This can offer an outing your loved one can look forward to weekly and allow them to make new friendships at the same time. There may be other community activities hosted through local churches and town-sponsored events that offer new opportunities for fun and socializing.

Music

Fun in caregiving

Photo by Pixabay (Beesmurf)

If your loved one is musical, play their favorite music or plan a karaoke night with their favorite songs.  According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, when used appropriately, music can: alter mood, manage self-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, encourage cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.

Projects

Set up projects at home that you might enjoy doing together. Find old photos or photo albums and help them create new scrapbook pages full of memories (or create them online!) Gardening, quilting, knitting, drawing or painting are other great options!

Talk about it

These are just a few suggestions for activities that can bring more fun to both you and your loved one’s life. So break out of your routine and discuss what you both might enjoy doing together that will bring joy and fond memories to you both!

Alzheimer’s disease robs the mind and memory and leaves those afflicted confused and helpless. It’s a painfully slow and debilitating process that makes mothers and fathers unrecognizable to their own children and turns long-married spouses into virtual strangers.

When a family member is diagnosed with the disease, important decisions about finances and personal care should be made before their mental faculties begin to diminish. With the involvement of their caregiver, who can provide important details, the transition can be made smoothly. Seek the expertise of a financial planner or lawyer to ensure that nothing is overlooked and that the decisions of a family member gripped by Alzheimer’s are carried out as intended.

Advance directives – financials

Financial directives must be written and made official while the individual is still able to make independent decisions. They’re important to the financial well-being of the patient’s family after their death because they spell out the exact details for how their financial assets are to be distributed. The most fundamental of these directives is the last will and testament, which addresses such matters as naming a will trustee, gifts, and how they are to be distributed. It also details any funeral arrangements, including how the individual’s remains are to be disposed of. Consequently, it is for good reason that experts recommend that an individual who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s should have a will made as soon as possible.

There are also advance financial directives intended to clarify financial arrangements once the disease has reached an advanced state. A durable power of attorney for finances is a directive that designates a trusted individual to render financial decisions so that legal action doesn’t become necessary after the individual has died. A living trust provides direction concerning the individual’s estate and appoints a trustee to manage property and funds on behalf of their beneficiaries. This is a role that a caregiver may be best suited to fill.

Courtesy of Pixabay writing (Free-Photos)

Courtesy of Pixabay(Free-Photos)

Consider recruiting a financial advisor to look at more specific aspects of your estate, including your life insurance and whether it’s worth settling a policy or keeping it over the long-term. A life insurance policy settlement can provide family members with needed funds at a difficult time. For example, if the beneficiaries are deceased or otherwise out of the picture, it may be worthwhile to settle the policy. Just be sure to do your research to understand the process completely before making any decisions.

Advance directives – health care

Advance health care directives are essential for clarifying an individual’s wishes concerning final health care dispositions. A living will details how an individual wants to be medically treated at the end of their life or if they are incapable of making their own decision in the event of a medical emergency. In some situations, a durable power of attorney may be the best option for someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This designates a trusted caregiver to act as the proxy in making and executing decisions once the disease has robbed the individual’s ability to make decisions on their own behalf.

The do not resuscitate order is another very important health care directive that instructs healthcare professionals when to cease performing CPR. It’s a legal means of ensuring that one doesn’t lapse into a persistent vegetative state. One important detail that people often overlook is to give permission for a loved one’s caregiver to communicate directly with lawyers and doctors concerning their care subject’s wishes and last days (specifically, this is intended to avoid the possibility that some mistake is made concerning the Alzheimer’s patient’s final wishes).

Memory loss and confusion are hallmarks of the way Alzheimer’s affects people. This can place an unnecessary emotional strain among loved ones if health care and financial arrangements aren’t addressed while the patient is still in possession of their mental faculties. A good rule of thumb is to begin working on advanced directives as soon as your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

 

Contributed by Lydia Chan. Lydia is the co-creator of Alzheimerscaregiver.net, a website that aims to provide tips and resources to help caregivers. Her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Lydia found herself struggling to balance the responsibilities of caregiving and her own life. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences with caregivers and seniors. In her spare time, Lydia finds joy in writing articles about a range of caregiving topics.

Taking care of an elderly parent or relative is a heartwarming experience and it can enhance the lives of those you care for ten-fold. But even the most patient and attentive caregivers need a break from time to time. While some might argue that spending every minute you can with an ailing parent is the best use of your time, others would point to the growing concern around self-care and encourage caregivers to take time away as needed to replenish and regroup. Taking care of someone you love is a lot of work, and while it is incredibly rewarding, you need to take a break sometimes too. You might be worried about how to leave a family member you care for to take a vacation or break, but with these tips, you can be on your way.

Plan in Advance

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Free-Photos)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Free-Photos)

You can’t know how long you are going to be caring for an ailing loved one, so it’s important to take the time you need when you need it. Start planning your vacation in advance so that you have plenty of time to ensure that everything is in order and looked after before you head out. Because you will need to find someone to care for your family member while you are away, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of lead-time to arrange for that additional care. Plus, if you are being paid for your time as a caregiver, consider how you can earn money to cover your time away from “work.” Giving yourself a few months notice allows you to save some of your money for such a vacation.

Talk to Other Family Members

When it comes to being paid for your time and effort as a caregiver, you’ll most likely need to plan to offer some form of payment to another family member who takes over. If your family member in care receives CDPAP, or another benefit, you may want to start putting some of those funds away now to ensure you have enough to cover the time away for additional care. You’ll want to organize a family meeting to discuss options for care while you are away. Keep in mind that family members might not want to take on the responsibility of caring for aging parents, even for a week, and they might expect you to find someone else to do the job while you are gone.

Hiring an Outside Source of Help

If it happens that your existing family members don’t want to pitch in to care for your aging parents while you are out of town, you might have to consider hiring an outside source of help. There are a number of home care services that can come for short or extended periods of time. You’ll need time to place an ad or contact an agency and arrange for an interview before leaving on your vacation.

Walk Through the Day

Photo courtesy Pixabay (silviarita)

Photo courtesy Pixabay (silviarita)

When you do find suitable care for your family member, whether that is another family member of an outside source of help, you’ll want to take the time to walk them through a typical day of care. It’s important to do this once or twice so that everyone is comfortable with the temporary situation. Remembering that this is just temporary will put everyone at ease. Elderly parents or family members might not want you to go away for a week or even longer, but because it is so important to maintain your self-care as a caregiver, you’ll need to come to terms with what leaving for a period of time means and decide to do it anyway. Taking time to acquaint new caregivers and your family member is important.

Finally, talk to your family member about how important it really is for you to be able to take time away from your job there and come back ready to tell them wonderful stories and share adventures with them. You need a break and while you might feel guilty about what that could feel like for your parents, remember again, that it is just temporary. And if you are really worried about taking time away from your family member, don’t go far so you can come at a moment’s notice if necessary. That way, you get a break, and you can sleep at night if you are worried about your parents or family members.

Contributed by Baruch Leifer

Freedom Care

Why is Decluttering so Beneficial? 

There are obvious reasons to declutter. Safety: Clutter can trip us up. Efficiency: With declining eyesight, it gets hard to find things we use every day. Focus: Messy environments can make it hard to process information.

Clutter is a growing problem today among all populations, and especially the elderly. To help your loved one downsize, create more room in their home and/or just make it safer to age in place, it is important to note the difference between hoarders and clutterers. Hoarders are obsessive and will often need a trained professional specializing in obsessive-compulsive disorder to let go. Clutterers, the more common type, are more apt to let go with a little encouragement and support. This article deals with the latter.

Why Is It So Hard to Do?

Whether you want to pare down the stuff in your home, garage, or a storage unit, one problem is knowing where to start. The more we have, the more overwhelming it is. And for some of us, the idea can be extremely anxiety-producing. A recent Yale study found that for some people, a part of our brain reacts the same way to the anticipated loss of valued possessions as it does to the idea of quitting an addiction. And there is the additional factor for  the elderly of not wanting to lose a connection with the past, whether that be old school papers or a favorite jar opener you’ve had in the family since 1969 (most of us have at least one of these things still hanging around the house!)

Some Tips for Success

  1. Get “buy in” from your loved one. Discuss the benefits of paring down, including potentially making some money from reselling your “stuff.” That can be through a yard sale, consignment shop, Craig’s List, or eBay. According to the New York Times, a well-planned garage sale typically nets between $500 and $1,000.
  2. Share the process. Come up with ways to make it an enjoyable activity you share, such as reviewing old photos or school papers together, or doing a “fashion show” to see what clothes to keep. Create incentives—such as an outing or meal after doing a certain amount of “work.”
  3. Don’t try to tackle too much at once. Help your loved one develop a strategy that addresses a room at a time, and then a single task at a time, so they are not overwhelmed. A good rule of thumb is to do no more than three hours of sorting a day, which is about how long we can sustain focus without a break.
    Photo by Pixabay (geralt)

    Photo by Pixabay (geralt)

  4. Get organized. Consider preparing three bags or boxes and labeling them Keep, Toss, and Sell/Donate. You might add a fourth box for things that need repairing, mending or dry cleaning, but don’t add more options than that. Put away what’s in your Keep pile at the end of each day and throw out or recycle what’s in your Toss pile.
  5. Be decisive. When in doubt, throw it out. Organizers often use the rule of thumb that if you haven’t used it/worn it/looked at it in a year, it’s time for it to go. When it comes to ornamental items or keepsakes, the other common standard is to only keep those things you really love and that give you pleasure. If that knick-knack your Aunt Marge gave you makes you cringe, it has no place in your home, regardless of the sentiment attached to it.
  6. Get professional help. If the job is just too big or you need direction, consider hiring a professional organizer. They can give you an overall strategy, or guide you through the process. Do a local search for “Certified Professional Organizers,” if you don’t have a referral for a professional.

Going through our possessions and ridding ourselves of things that no longer fit our lives is a process we can all benefit from. You may find that going through this process with your loved one will be a positive and rewarding experience for both of you. And you may just find you are motivated to do it for yourself as well!