Senior hoarding seems to be have been around for a very long time. Recently, we hear more about this in the news, however. There are stories of folks being buried alive under their newspapers or firefighters unable to enter a home due to the passages being blocked by piles of different items. The underlying factors in hoarding may be complicated. The first step in dealing with this issue is to determine the reason that someone is hoarding.
Vickie Dellaquila, certified professional organizer and author of Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash, has identified 10 reasons that seniors are reluctant to get rid of their ‘stuff’ along with some quick suggestions on how we can help.(2)
- The Sentimental Attachment
The beloved prom dress represents the history and memories of the event; it's not the dress itself. Save only a piece of the dress to make a quilt or display in a shadow box. Scrapbooking and converting photos to DVDs are other ways to save treasured keepsakes without all the extra mess.
- The Sense of Loyalty
Older adults who've received gifts from family and friends may be reluctant to part with them. Encourage your loved one to give unused gifts back to the giver or grandchildren.
- The Need to Conserve
Seniors are the original green people. Appeal to a senior's desire to help others. Counter a senior's inclination to conserve by appealing to their desire to give back.
- The Fatigue
A home with a lifetime of memories can easily become too much for an older adult to handle. Help seniors manage clutter by establishing online bill paying. Also, get your senior off junk mail lists, which can put them at risk for identity theft, and buy them a shredder.
- The Change In Health
Seniors who have suffered a brain trauma or stroke, who are wheelchair bound or who are experiencing dementia may no longer be able to manage household duties, which could contribute to clutter.
- The Fear
Seniors often fear what will happen if they give up their stuff, like the older adult who saved three generations of bank statements. Use logic and information to help seniors understand it's O.K. to let go.
- The Dream of the Future
Those clothes in the closet don't fit anymore, but your loved one is sure that some day she'll lose enough weight to get into them.
- The Love of Shopping
Today's seniors have more money than any other previous generation of older adults and they love to shop. Clutter can become so bad seniors can't find things and they repurchase items they already have, contributing to the clutter cycle.
- The History And Memories
Keepsakes represent history and memories. Encourage seniors to take old photos to a family reunion and share with several generations. Let seniors know they can contribute to the history of their time and leave a lasting legacy by donating to museums and historical societies, a theater and library, or churches and synagogues.
- The Loneliness
Stuff can become a misplaced companion. Loneliness may also lead to depression, which makes it difficult for seniors to get organized. Consider the services of a professional organizer and caregiver
David Lawrence, CEO of Family Resource Home Care points out: “Family members are often challenged to keep up with the daily needs of their own lives, let alone those of an aging loved one. But when that loved one also develops a hoarding problem, the situation can quickly spiral out of control. Attempts to remove items from a hoarder’s home are typically met with resistance and fear. Most families will need to turn to mental health experts to address the problem and help the senior into a safer living situation. But there are also ways that families can avoid a small problem from growing quickly out of hand.” (1)
Remember to respect your parent or senior loved one, first and foremost. If the senior's safety is not impaired then it may not be worth pressing the issue. Always stay calm while discussing the hoarding issues
Hiring a trained homecare caregiver from a licensed homecare agency will provide families with regular monitoring of their loved one. If a hoarding problem exists or begins to develop, caregivers will help with such simple tasks as sorting through mail and newspapers, organizing photos and keeping the kitchen and bathrooms clean and organized. A good caregiver is a simple preventative to a potentially dangerous problem.
If you are unsure if you elderly loved one is safe at home, contact a professional for an in-home assessment.
(1) Home Care Insight; David Lawrence:http://www.homecareinsight.com/2010/09/seniors-who-hoard/
(2) CaregiverStress.com http://www.caregiverstress.com/aging/senior-hoarding/10-reasons-seniors-keep-stuff/
(3) American Companion Care:http://www.americancompanioncare.com/blog/bid/76836/10-Solutions-For-Senior-Hoarding-Why-Elderly-People-Hoard