These tasks are often not readily apparent, but they’re important for keeping your aging parent (or senior client’s) life organized. An added benefit – organizational skills are good for the brain
Your aging parents, or senior clients, probably use basic organizational tools like appointment books, calendars, or “to do” lists – but what about those “higher level” organizational tasks? There’s no doubt that cleaning and uncluttering your environment and staying on track with “to do’s” are healthy behaviors, but very few older adults have a plan for tracking critical information – such as wills, bank deposit boxes or old accounts, or access to online information. These are some of the “higher level” organization tasks that are essential and that we often don’t think about organizing until its too late!
Here are 3 ideas to get “next level” organization going for your aging parents, or for your clients if you are a senior healthcare provider. We’ve deliberately limited them to some simple steps you can take immediately to get going!
1. “Download” Critical Data
If something happened to your parent or client- would a family member or work colleague know how to access their health information? What about important accounts? Critical information is often something we delay or don’t even think about organizing. Help them start organizing critical information with a Locator Log. Using an address book, have them write the name of the item in the correct alphabetical section. For example, “will” under “w”, and note the location under the address. If a paper notebook seems unreliable, consider a tool like MemoryBanc – a workbook specifically designed to organize your critical information, developed by Kay Bransford in response to her own experience in managing her parents’ affairs after they both experienced memory decline. This comprehensive guide will insure your parents or clients cover all the essentials in organizing their essential data.
2. Break Down Big Tasks
Often it’s the big jobs – moving, repainting an apartment, or starting a new project – that stop us in our organizational tracks. The easiest way to help seniors take on big jobs is to work with them to create a Master Plan, which breaks up the larger task into small, concrete and manageable steps. Mark Twain of all people has a great saying about Master Plans: “The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and starting with the first one.” We agree.
3. Take the “10 in 10” Challenge
Is your senior always asking you to help them figure out how to get rid of “stuff”? Clutter in a home or office can drive you to distraction. It sometimes feels so overwhelming just to organize things, and as a result we put off doing anything about it, letting the situation balloon. Yet de-cluttering has big brain-health payoffs. Not only is it easier to find everything we need, but re-organizing challenges us to problem solve and be more flexible in how we keep track of our things.
Here’s a quick way to start de-cluttering: Take the “10 in 10” challenge. Have your parents or clients commit to spending just 10 minutes a day, for 10 days straight, de-cluttering. Those tasks can be at home or work, big or small. Want to up the brain health challenge? Have them put everything back in a different place to break up old habits and challenge their brain to exercise and build new muscle memory as they create new routines.
Fostering “higher level” organization benefits mental sharpness and long-term brain health. While we may not think of getting organized as “brain healthy,” there is no doubt that bringing routine to our daily lives benefits our cognitive function. Folks who are well organized remember better because they have effectively mastered the use of simple memory strategies that help them keep track of things like appointments, information or just their keys or reading glasses.
Being organized allows us to function more smoothly by making it easier for us to keep track of our everyday “what, when, and where.” In addition, being organized increases our sense of control and efficacy, reducing the chances that instead of routine, we will routinely just feel “stressed out.” Since chronic stress has been linked to increased memory loss and dementia risk, as well as emotional disorders, we can also think of being organized as having long-term benefits to our brain’s health, too.
Fall is a perfect time to get “next level” organized, and create an orderly, inviting environment in which to spend the winter months.
RSVP to attend our upcoming workshop: De-Cluttering Your Home: Tools for Helping You Get Your Home Organized with Taryn Lamb, professional organizer and regular feature on TLC’s “Hoarding Buried Alive” and A&E’s “Hoarders”.