Many routine tasks become more strenuous and unmanageable with age. Keeping up with everyday household chores is typically one of the first things older adults need some assistance with, in order to continue living at home comfortably and independently. Very few people actually enjoy the process of cleaning and maintaining a home, but when strength and mobility start to diminish, housekeeping can become draining and overwhelming.
Perils of an Unclean Home
When keeping up with housework becomes unmanageable, it is not recommended to let it go by the wayside because neglecting cleaning duties can lead to a variety of health issues.
Some of the health problems an unkempt home can present, may be:
- Unchanged bed sheets
- Dander, hair, and pet fur
- Old vacuums
- Contaminated HVAC filters
- Mold and mildew
- Hazardous cleaning products
- Bathmats and towels
- Spoiled food
Unchanged Bed Sheets
Bed sheets need to be washed and changed on a regular basis to prevent the mass accumulation of dead skin and dust mites. It’s not overly pleasant to think about, but the average human discards approximately an ounce of dead skin a week. This shed skin lingers in your bed sheets and becomes a feeding and breeding ground for dust mites and bacteria, which can then become embedded in the sheet fibers.
These microbes leave behind fecal matter and other waste that can cause:
- Fungal, bacterial, and viral infections
- Aggravated eczema
- Skin irritations, lesions, and rashes
- Asthma and other respiratory ailments
It is recommended to wash your sheets once a week. Studies show that sheets left unchanged for just one week have upwards of 25,000 more bacteria than a bathroom doorknob.
Dander, Hair, and Pet Fur
Dander is a general term for the material that is shed from the bodies of people and animals. A large portion of the population has pets, that are typically considered members of the family, but their sheddings can make you sick if not properly cleaned and attended to. Pet dander is widely known to aggravate allergies and cause sneezing fits. Keeping pets off beds, furniture, and fabrics is a good way to reduce dander in the home, but regular cleaning and vacuuming is also required to prevent the buildup of harmful microbes and pathogens.
Old Vacuum Cleaners
You likely think of your vacuum as a helpful and effective cleaning tool, but in some cases older model vacuums can actually just make things worse. Studies done on environmental technology showed that every vacuum released some amount of dust and bacteria into the air. Old vacuums with unchanged filters were substantially worse than newer models. For optimal results, it is recommended to get a vacuum that is compatible with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which should be cleaned regularly. Air purifiers can also be used to improve indoor air quality.
Contaminated HVAC Filters
Indoor air quality can be seriously compromised by uncleaned or infrequently changed HVAC air filters. Clogged air filters can block up the duct work, and lead to the growth of mold and mildew. Regularly changing filters on your heating and AC units can also contribute to better indoor air quality.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew can begin to emerge in neglected areas all around the home from the bathroom to the basement. Mold generally starts to form in damp areas, and can spread if left unchecked. Mold accumulation in the home can lead to a variety of health issues, like:
- Headaches and migraines
- Respiratory aliments
- Throat, eye, and nose irritation
- Coughing and wheezing
Hazardous Cleaning Products
Again, these products are meant to improve health and cleanliness in the home, but many household cleaners contain an array of harmful chemicals that can have detrimental health effects. These noxious chemicals can cause skin irritations and disease, respiratory issues, and even cancer. It is recommended to use natural cleaners like lemon, vinegar, or baking soda, or look for cleaning products that are EcoLogo or Green Seal certified.
Bathmats and Towels
These perpetually damp fabrics offer the perfect breeding ground for a range of harmful germs and pathogens. Bathmats should be shaken out and hung up immediately after use, and put through the washing machine a couple times a month.
Spoiled and spilled food in your refrigerator or in the garbage can also potentially make you ill. The shelving and drawers in your fridge should be thoroughly washed and disinfected once a month. Also, be sure to wash all fruit and vegetables before eating.
When household chores have become too much to handle alone, help is available from home caregivers that can assist with daily tasks and activities, while providing companionship, and focusing on improved health.