Accumulating stockpiles of useless junk is a hoarder’s habit—and a family’s nightmare. When an elderly loved one is on the road to hoarding, handling the disaster takes sensitivity and skill. Concerned family members should make efforts to compassionately resolve the hoarding dilemma. Enlisting the help of home health care services can help you deal with this issue.
Why do some seniors hoard?
Seniors tend to hang on to memories. In hoarders’ lives, their way of reminiscing about the good times is achieved by preserving scraps associated with positive events. They may stash the Styrofoam cup from a first date at a fast food restaurant—never mind the cup is 40 years old.
Older folks who hoard may be reluctant to toss items due to fear of loss. Anxiety, too, may cause a senior to hoard unnecessarily. When depression strikes, the elderly may lose the motivation to clean and declutter. Plus, seniors who hoard simply may not know how to discard accumulated goods.
Emotional stresses, like loneliness, or cognitive impairments, such as those due to a stroke or dementia, are also triggers for hoarding in some vulnerable older people. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is also sometimes present in people who hoard. Experts also link Diogenes syndrome with hoarding.
What are indications of hoarding?
Warnings of hoarding in a senior’s home take various forms. Family members can identify a hoarding scenario by the following telltale signs. Finding lots of expired food in the fridge or pantry can be an indication of hoarding. Closets jam packed with unwearable clothing could point to hoarding issues.
A senior who has difficulty ambling safely through her home due to mass clutter is hardly hiding her hoarding problem. Similarly, if she is challenged by organizing the home, a hoarding issue is evident. Unpaid bills, unopened mail and compulsive shopping also are indicative of hoarding.
How can hoarding be medically treated?
Underlying mental health or cognitive issues may be present in people who hoard. Consequently, an important step in treating hoarding is to visit a medical professional. Doctors will evaluate the person with hoarding issues to determine if dementia or another medical condition has a role in the hoarding activities.
When the senior is in stable health and medications are unnecessary, psychotherapy may help to deter compulsions to hoard. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a key treatment method for people who hoard. Seniors learn to challenge established thinking patterns as well as organize and improve coping skills.
What are non-clinical ways to help a senior who hoards?
Seniors with sentimental attachment to items can learn to part with a piece of them. An aging aunt with fond memories of her high school prom may have saved her whole prom dress. Help the senior sew a scrap of the dress into a quilt and discard the rest.
Recent technology makes decluttering possible. Stacks of random photos can be converted into DVDs. Creating family scrapbooks with the photos is another way to declutter, simultaneously preserve treasured moments and spend time with the hoarding senior while reducing crippling isolation.
Seniors who hoard can share their photos and sentimental objects with younger generations, perhaps at family reunions—and declutter at the same time. Or, convince the senior to donate their artifacts to local museums, libraries, theaters and historical societies. Gifting in such a way leaves the seniors with a legacy.
Special occasions bring gifts; seniors who hoard will make every effort to stash the gifts in their home, no matter how jumbled with excess the property happens to be. An effective solution is to encourage the senior to give the presents to grandchildren or return the gift to the giver.
Unopened bills scattered across the tables of seniors who hoard can be handled by setting up online bill paying. Accumulated junk mail is waiting for identity theft to happen. Reduce the chances of fraud by removing the loved one from junk mail lists and giving the hoarding senior a shredder.
Older people with hoarding issues fear discarding papers that were once important, like bank statements from 30 years ago. Reason with the senior that documents like these are no longer relevant and that tossing them is the safest way to protect themselves from bank fraud—and hoarding.
Hoarded homes often are chaotic messes of identical junk. The older individual who hoards may purchase multiple can openers for one reason: Her kitchen is so riddled with excessive items that finding a single can opener is a near-impossibility. Attempt to convince the senior to cut back when shopping.
When loneliness overwhelms seniors, hoarded items can be an inadvertent companion. Depression, too, can accompany loneliness and lead to withdrawal from household chores. The home becomes a center for unwanted, unusable goods. Ward off seniors’ loneliness by hiring companion caregivers.
Similarly, when a senior is affected by a stroke or other health crisis, she may no longer be able to sustain a clean home environment; and the home becomes rife with hoarded goods. Help the senior loved one by enlisting the services of a caregiver who provides light housekeeping.
Assisting Hands Home Care is one trusted senior home care agency with the means to keep your elderly loved one cared for any time of the day. Our compassionate, professional caregivers provide comprehensive, non-medical personal assistance, such as help with bathing, grooming, eating and transportation. Our caregivers also provide companionship to ease the burden of loneliness that sometimes accompanies hoarding tendencies.
If your loved one haphazardly accumulates possessions because a hospital stay has left her weakened, the Assisting Hands Home Care professionals are prepared to offer home health care services. Caregivers will transport your loved one to physical therapy or doctor’s appointments and assist with personal mobility, among other tasks, such as home safety evaluations.
Assisting Hands Home Care elder care services include respite care, 24-hour care and live-in care. When your aging loved one is in need of extra help at home, consult Assisting Hands Home Care in Cook and DuPage counties.