Plights of Spring

Local companies offer help for seniors’ seasonal cleaning needs

By Eric Newman

April has arrived, and while it might not bring many “April showers” around the Valley, it will bring many new looks to residents’ homes as they indulge in spring cleaning season.

Whether cleaning involves just a light tidy-up, or even a full home renovation, decluttering can be helpful to make living spaces look nicer, while also boosting the safety of a person’s home.

“Decluttering can be a big benefit for those who have an issue with collecting things,” says Paul Cardosi, owner of UNITS Moving and Portable Storage in Phoenix, which delivers mobile storage containers throughout the area. “There can be situations where somebody has too much stuff in their house, to the point it becomes dangerous for your health, safety and accessibility in extreme situations.”

However, for seniors who might not be able to lift, bend and move around enough to clean their own homes, there are plenty of services ready to assist in spring cleaning.

Ed Bejalke of Valley Maid, a Phoenix-based cleaning service, says there is no specific protocol to follow for senior or immobile people, but they can be helped all the same by a company like his.

“A person that is older, or comes out of the hospital, or has certain operations really can’t do anything for a while,” he says. “They can’t scrub, they can’t move their arms or move enough to mop the floors, and we can help with that, just like we help all sorts of people. It’s nothing special for elderly people, but it can make a difference for them.”

Though spring cleaning can consist of a variety of tasks, ranging from a simple floor sweep to hands-and-knees scrubbing of every inch inside a house, Bejalke recommends that those wishing to hire a cleaning service have a need for more than just small projects to be accomplished.

For a business such as Valley Maid, there is often a minimum cleaning fee, and he advises customers to have enough projects to warrant the price paid. “Places like us won’t just go in and clean a tub or straighten up a closet only, or just clean a stove and head out, because it’s not economically feasible, so people who call should want a pretty deep clean,” he says.

However, Bejalke wants to make a distinction between having enough for cleaners to do and simply being ill-prepared for a cleaning service to come into a house. Potential spring cleaning customers should avoid sprawling, small dirty areas for a service to work around, as it will only cause complications, which in turn means higher costs.

“The house has to be ready, and all the messes have to be off places like the countertops or kitchen and the bathrooms. Cleaners are not housekeepers, so they are not there to clean around the other stuff, and we don’t iron clothes or wash clothes,” Bejalke says.

Whether a homeowner wants an outside service, or even to clean the house themselves, part of the necessary preparation for a house cleaning is getting items out of designated work areas. This allows the maximum space for tidying up. That is where a company like UNITS comes in handy.

Cardosi says his company brings portable storage units to homes and can leave them there for an extended period, which provides an easy option for the placement of miscellaneous items while homeowners go through the process of slowly taking everything in and out of the house safely before and after cleaning.

UNITS charges monthly for storage units, which allows cleaners plenty of time to spend just a few hours or minutes cleaning every day, conserving energy and time. “You can absolutely take your time, which takes a lot of the pressure off,” Cardosi says. “If you need to just take a little bit of time cleaning every day, your stuff is right there and you’re in no rush, which a lot of people appreciate.”

Organizations like the Area Agency On Aging, Region One, which promotes social services to aging people in Maricopa County, can be utilized to facilitate cleaning services for those who may not be able to help themselves.

Whether due to health or financial reasons, or even a hoarding disorder, there could be a variety of reasons older people may not be able to clean their own houses, and maybe they have just failed to reach out, says Jeff Dean, director of contract administration for the Area Agency On Aging (AAOA). And services like those provided by AAOA can at least make a significant dent in the problem.

“It happens a lot that, let’s say their grandchildren or children help with us, we can get one big day of housekeeping for ten or twelve hours,” he says, “which can buy them some time before things start to deteriorate again, which can make a big difference.”

For many older people, an extensive spring cleaning can be the ultimate result of neglecting regular cleaning and maintenance on a home.

Many of the social workers at the AAOA have told Dean that those who live alone but may struggle to live independently do not want to bother friends and family by reaching out for help to do regular tasks. However, it may end up causing a more daunting effort down the road, with heavier tasks to clean up a home for everyone involved.

Just a little bit of routine cleaning, he suggests, could eliminate several future issues. “Just by them expressing a need for help, it starts a conversation which would make a huge difference,” Dean says. “By the time major issues come to us, it would have been nice had some of the work been done beforehand to make it easier.”