It’s almost spring cleaning season, the perfect time to organize and declutter the home. Helping your older loved one with spring cleaning is not just a thoughtful gesture, but a way to keep the place they live safe and comfortable. Here are three things you can do to help keep your loved one’s home in good condition this spring: 


  1. Clean up the medicine cabinet

Old medications that have passed their expiration date not only take up important space—they can actually do your loved one harm. Many medications lose their effectiveness after they expire which means they can’t treat your loved one’s symptoms as well as they need to. All medications past their expiration dates should be thrown out. If your loved one’s medications are in low supply, reach out to their doctor or pharmacist to make sure they stay up-to-date.

To safely dispose of old medications, the Food and Drug Administration recommends bringing them to a nearby take-back location, which can be found using a government online locator. This is the safest method of disposal, and should be used if possible. If there is no accessible location near you, the FDA has an updated list of medications that should be flushed using a toilet. Any medication not on this list can be thrown out in the trash, though the FDA does recommend mixing these medications with cat litter, coffee grounds or dirt for added safety.



  1. Remove fall risks

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults. Here are some areas to focus on when clearing the house of tripping risks:

  • Remove clutter from the floor including electrical cords and shoes, especially on stairs
  • Avoid using throw rugs. These can be replaced with non-slip mats, especially in the kitchen and bathroom
  • Tape down any loose bits of carpet. Worn out carpets should also be replaced, especially if they have holes
  • Repair loose or uneven floorboards


  1. Organize and shred old documents

Daily life comes with a lot of paperwork. Your loved one may have collected a number of tax documents, bank slips and receipts through the years. The issue is knowing what to keep and what to throw away.

Most experts recommend holding onto tax documents for three years, since the IRS can only challenge tax filings within three years.

Current and permanent documents such as birth certificates, Last Wills and Testaments, social security cards and marriage licenses should be kept in safe locations. Ask your loved one who should know where these documents are stored in the event of an emergency.

Financial records, tax documents, deeds and policies that are no longer current or active can be thrown away. But remember that throwing away personal documents improperly can lead to identity theft. To prevent this:

  • Use a paper shredder to destroy documents containing sensitive information. You can also throw away the paper shreds at different times for extra safety
  • Many communities have designated days to turn in papers that need to be shredded.  You can check with your local community or government office to see if they offer this service.
  • If you don’t have a paper shredder, soaking documents in water until they can no longer be read will also do.
  • Cut up or punch holes in old credit cards


Written By: Julie Hayes, MS, Content Manager for Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging