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Clutter: When the House Is a Mess

Find home care near you or your loved one:

You find that your 77-year-old mother's house is often in disarray when you visit. You believe it's time for her to make a change in her living arrangement. What do you say?

Observation and careful attention to the problem should be your first course of action. Avoid diagnosing a problem and deciding on a solution quickly. Approach your mother with a sense of working together to find a solution rather than telling her what to do. The specific circumstances--such as financial constraints--may be relevant. Is the problem simply that your mother is physically challenged by strenuous housework or is she deteriorating mentally? Does she just need help tidying up around the house or are other aspects of her personal care, such as bathing, going downhill?

Assuming that the problem is physical--where activities such as vacuuming or bending are becoming issues--then begin the conversation with an offer: "Mom, I have some extra cash. What do you say we find someone to help you with the heavy stuff, like vacuuming? It will be my treat." Seniors are often very willing to accept help around the house. And most communities have ample resources such as cleaning services and companies like Home Instead that can help.

Research: The most difficult topic for adult children to discuss with their aging parents was that they have to leave their home. That conversation was a problem for more than half (53 percent) of those who were still in the parent- child role, as well as more than one-third (35 percent) who didn't have that communication obstacle.

Please download the full "40-70" Rule® Booklet (PDF 800K).

Last revised: December 7, 2010

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