help aging adults get rid of junk mail

4 Steps to Getting Rid of Junk Mail

A great way to help an aging loved one get rid of clutter is to help them control the amount of junk mail that floods their mailbox. Especially after the holidays and end-of-year solicitations, the pile could be hiding important bills or notices. Assisting with the mail also gives you an opportunity to look for signs that older loved ones — especially those who live alone — may need additional help or attention. Here are four things you can do to help your loved one get rid of junk mail.

Help Aging Loved Ones Eliminate Junk Mail

by Deborah Liss Fins, LICSW, CMC – Aging Life Care Association™ Member


Catalogs, holiday sales coupons, advertisements, appeal letters from every non-profit under the sun…This time of year, our mail is swamped with unsolicited enticements to spend money and hundreds of requests for donations before December 31.

For most, sorting the mail is a matter of tossing 95 percent into the circular file and saving only what’s relevant: invoices (if you still get them via snail mail), magazines and other publications, and the rare, precious personal letter.

But for older adults who are losing the ability to manage their personal affairs due to memory loss or other cognitive challenges, the onslaught of holiday mail only makes an already messy situation even messier. An individual with dementia may not want to throw anything away, for fear of missing something important. But the outcome can be just the opposite.

Somewhere under that stack of junk mail are invoices that need to be paid. A missed gas bill could mean the heat gets cut off. A missed phone bill could result in severed communications. Meanwhile, a small, well-intentioned donation to a non-profit spawns even more appeal letters, as the donor’s contact information goes into mailing list data bases.

More mail, more piles, more chances that the really important stuff gets lost.

Then there’s the problem of junk email. For anyone who spends time online, unwanted email can clutter up an inbox even faster than snail mail can pile up on the kitchen table.

Here are some tips to help you and your loved one take charge of junk mail—paper or electronic:

1) Place your loved one on “do not mail” lists.

Many retailers ask for zip codes at the check-out counter. These zip codes are the key to finding addresses and placing you or your loved on a mailing list. And not only for that store. Lists are rented to affiliated retailers for their own marketing. However, you don’t need to give a zip code to make a purchase. Train yourself, your aging loved one, and any other caregivers to say  “no thank you” or “pass” when asked for their zip code.

To get off these lists, register at these free services:

Used together, these online services will help to keep personal addresses off affiliate retailer’s lists. In addition, if your loved one has given her zip code to a store, you’ll need to contact that retailer directly and ask for her contact information to be removed from their list.

2) Set up a post office box for your loved one’s mail.

If your loved one is no longer capable of managing any decisions about mail, you can have it forwarded to a post office box. You collect the mail once or twice a week, toss the junk, and deliver what’s important.

3) Un-enroll from unwanted emails.

Streamline your loved one’s emails (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, AOL, iCloud) with a free app that organizes all newsletters and promotions into one daily digest. This service, Unroll.Me, also unsubscribes your loved one from spam and other nuisance emails.

4) Unsubscribe and block junk emails.

This is the most time-consuming effort, but worth it in the long run. Go through your loved one’s emails and unsubscribe, company by company. It usually takes at least a week to get a name and contact information off an email list. Pair this with filters that block domain names from companies that send a lot of junk email.

By taking these steps, you are not only getting rid of junk mail and clutter, but also helping protect your loved one from possible fraud or exploitation.

About the author:  Deborah Liss Fins has over 35 years of experience in aging life care issues. She is the President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC in Worcester, MA.  Debbie is a member of the Board of Directors of the Aging Life Care Association™  and co-chair of the Education Committee.  Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @DeborahFinsALCM or email her at  Deborah Fins Associates has a presence on Facebook – we invite you to like our page.

image source: Wikipedia

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

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