Cleaning (as if someone else might have to)

Nancy Lundebjerg resizedNancy E. Lundebjerg, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
American Geriatrics Society

It started with the shoes in the corner of the bedroom—and it continued through three closets, two dressers, a huge chest in my living room, a small filing cabinet, the front hall closet, and even the desk in my office at work. Some might call this spring cleaning but, for me, it’s more episodic and usually sparked by something like being annoyed enough by the pile of shoes in the corner to find them a home.

As always happens during one of these all too rare bouts of purging, I think about the family cleaning events I’ve been part of as parents, aunts, and grandparents moved on. I was having dinner with a few friends last week and we were swapping our caregiver cleaning stories. I found that my late father’s desire to hold on to his power tools was matched by my friend’s father’s desire to bring them all with him to his new assisted living facility. I somehow ended up with a drill, hammer, and a ruler from my dad. The hammer is spattered with paint and the head may be a little loose but I think of my dad every time I use it and could not imagine purchasing a shiny new one. The ruler is an artifact in my curio cabinet – along with the rotary phone from my parent’s bedroom. They’re Items with no current purpose…and they make me smile.

I also spent several years as my aunt’s primary caregiver. Moving her out of her apartment was easier but still no less daunting. I had reached the point where I couldn’t maintain her at home given her advanced dementia, and so I undertook the hunt for a quality nursing home that she could afford and that would take her (Sidenote: “Would take her” is a thing…and a thing for an entirely different blog post!). Having found one, there came the task of cleaning out her apartment. My sister, niece, and I found that she had a closet filled with lightbulbs ordered from some charity (beware the telemarketer and your older loved one). There were bricks in that closet—from where and for what we still do not know. She also had a cedar chest (made by my grandfather) filled with old ConEd bills.

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