Household management refers to the various tasks and chores associated with the organization, financial management , and day-to-day operations of a home. Housekeeping is a term that is sometimes used to refer to the cleaning and physical upkeep of a house, as distinct from financial issues or outdoor maintenance.
Household management depends on the individual's ability to carry out instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), which are activities necessary for independent living in the community. IADLs include:
- ability to use the telephone
- shopping (for other items as well as groceries)
- food preparation
- housekeeping (cleaning house, making beds, washing dishes, etc.)
- doing laundry
- using transportation (driving own car or using public transportation)
- proper use of medications
- money management
Household management can be divided into several different areas for purposes of description.
Housekeeping usually refers to the everyday tasks and chores that are necessary to keep a household clean, neat, orderly, and functioning smoothly. It includes shopping for food and cleaning supplies; food storage, preparation, and cleanup after meals; laundry, bed making, and bathroom sanitation; garbage and trash removal; floor, window, and furniture cleaning or care; and running errands.
Pet care is also usually considered housekeeping; it includes not only food and water for the pet but also sanitation (walking the dog or providing a litter box for the cat) and providing the pet with veterinary care.
Property maintenance and upkeep
Property upkeep covers such tasks as maintaining the structural soundness of the house; keeping plumbing, electrical wiring, and the heating/cooling system in good working order; maintaining or replacing major appliances (water heater, washer, dryer, refrigerator, etc.); and checking the house periodically for safety (good lighting, handrails where needed, rugs and carpets securely anchored, etc.) and security (locks and other security devices) measures.
Exterior property maintenance includes keeping the roof, paint, or siding of the house in good shape; snow and ice removal; and lawn care or landscaping.
Purchasing, insuring, and maintaining an automobile is generally considered a form of property upkeep, whether the car is kept in a garage or parked outside on the street.
The financial aspect of household management includes paying bills (tax assessments, mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, insurance payments, and credit card statements) in a timely fashion; making a budget for household expenses and revising it as needed; keeping accurate records of household expenditures and receipts; and setting aside money for emergencies or unforeseen expenses.
Household management includes compliance with federal, state, or local laws regarding filing and paying taxes; Medicare and Medicaid regulations; auto registration and inspection; building codes and permits; recycling and trash pickup; and regulations about parking and snow removal.
Two areas of government regulation of particular concern to seniors are jury duty and driving recertification. With regard to jury duty, some states (such as Connecticut and California) have an upper age limit of 70; seniors above this age are no longer required to serve on juries but may do so if they wish. Other states, such as New York, have no upper age limit. With regard to driving, the fact that elderly drivers are involved in auto accidents more frequently than younger adults has led some states to require recertification for drivers over 70 or require physicians to report disabilities that may affect the person's ability to drive.
It is difficult to generalize about a given senior's ability to keep up with the responsibilities of household management because of the many individual factors involved:
- The nature of the senior's disabilities, if any. An older adult may be able to manage money, file taxes, hire a plumber, and carry out other tasks that are primarily cognitive, but need help with chores that require physical strength or mobility.
- The senior's living situation. An elderly person living with an adult son or daughter or one in an assisted living facility has fewer household tasks or chores to complete than one living alone in a house or apartment. Similarly, a senior living in a rural area will have a different set of outdoor maintenance tasks than one living in a town or city.
- The senior's past experience with household management. Some older adults have carried household responsibilities throughout their adult lives, while others may have had a spouse, sibling, or other relative who took care of such matters for them. In addition, some widowed seniors who grew up with rigid or stereotyped gender roles may be at a loss to take over certain tasks that a husband or wife may have performed; older men may have difficulty with laundry, cooking, or house cleaning, while older women may have trouble with auto maintenance or house repairs.
- The senior's financial situation. Seniors who are financially secure can hire homemakers or other helpers to assist them with household management; others may need to seek out volunteer help or low-cost services in their community.
For many older adults, a comprehensive geriatric assessment and the services of a geriatric care manager (sometimes called a case manager) may be necessary in order to determine whether the senior needs help with household management, and if so, what type of help is necessary. A professional geriatric care manager meets with the senior and his or her friends or family to discuss the senior's living situation. The care manager will then observe the senior carrying out IADLs, make notes of any difficulties the senior is having with these daily tasks, draft an action plan, link up the senior with appropriate helpers and services, and monitor the senior's care on an ongoing basis. The care manager may be hired to oversee only household management issues, or on a broader basis to coordinate nursing care, interview all home-care workers, and respond to any emergencies the senior may have. Most geriatric care managers are nurses or social workers with specialized training in elder care.
Geriatric assessment —A comprehensive evaluation of an elderly person's physical health, functional ability, cognitive function, mental health, and social situation.
Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) —Activities necessary for independent living within one's community.
Housekeeping —A general term for house cleaning, food preparation, laundry, and other chores typically done inside the home.
A good source of information about older adults' issues with household management that includes a list of resources is the publication from the National Institute on Aging listed below.
Beers, Mark H., M. D., and Thomas V. Jones, MD. Merck Manual of Geriatrics, 3rd ed., Chapter 4, “Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment.” Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck, 2005.
Mace, Nancy L., and Peter V. Rabins. The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss in Later Life, 4th ed. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
Morris, Virginia. How to Care for Aging Parents, 2nd ed. New York: Workman Publishing Co., 2004.
Struyk, Raymond J., and Harold M. Katsura. Aging at Home: How the Elderly Adjust Their Housing without Moving. New York: Haworth Press, 1988.
Alley, D., P. Liebig, J. Pynoos, et al. “Creating Elder Friendly Communities: Preparations for an Aging Society.” Journal of Gerontological Social Work 49 (January-February 2007): 1–18.
Cheek, P., L. Nikpour, and H. D. Nowlin. “Aging Well with Smart Technology.” Nursing Administration Quarterly 29 (October-December 2005): 329–338.
Marek, K. D., L. Popejoy, G. Petroski, et al. “Clinical Outcomes of Aging in Place.” Nursing Research 54 (May-June 2005): 202–211.
Unsworth, C. A., Y. Wells, C. Browning, et al. “To Continue, Modify or Relinquish Driving: Findings from a Longitudinal Study of Healthy Ageing.” Gerontology 53 (November 21, 2007): 423–431.
“Older Drivers, Elderly Driving, Seniors at the Wheel.” Smart Motorist, http://www.smartmotorist.com/traffic-and-safety-guideline/older-drivers-elderly-driving-seniors-at-the-wheel.html [cited March 23, 2008].
Tips from the National Institute on Aging (NIA). There's No Place Like Home—for Growing Old. Bethesda, MD: NIA, 2006. Available online in PDF format at http://www.niapublications.org/tipsheets/pdf/Theres_No_Place_Like_Home%96For_Growing_Old.pdf [cited March 23, 2008].
Administration on Aging (AoA), One Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, DC, 20201, (202) 619-0724, [email protected], http://www.aoa.gov/index.asp.
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 601 E Street NW, Washington, DC, 20049, (800) OUR-AARP (687-2277), http://www.aarp.org/.
National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC), 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 420, Washington, DC, 20036, 202.939.1784, 202.265.4435, [email protected], http://www.naipc.org/NAIPCHome/tabid/36/Default.aspx.
National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM), 1604 North Country Club Road, Tucson, AZ, 85716, (520) 881-8008, (520) 325-7925, http://www.caremanager.org/index.cfm.
National Institute on Aging (NIA) Information Center, P.O. Box 8057, Gaithersburg, MD, 20898, (800) 222-2225, www.nia.nih.gov.
Rebecca J. Frey Ph.D.