While stockpiling food, medicine and other necessities for emergencies is normal and prudent, excessive hoarding is a symptom of a problem, especially for those over the age of 65. Below are some early signs of hoarding by elders and what caretakers can do about it.
They’re Hoarding Items That Aren’t That Valuable
Though it is true that people value things differently, if you notice that your loved one is hoarding things like litter, dirty paper, bags or food containers and their home smells bad because of it, this is an indication of a problem. If the issue is not addressed, mold and bacteria can spread around the premises which can compromise their health as well as that of anyone that visits.
They Keep Part of Their Residence Off-Limits
Elders who have a hoarding issue often know it, and will attempt to conceal such behavior from their loved ones. As a consequence they might seal off certain rooms and dissuade others from going there. They do this because they fear that if the hoarding is discovered, they will be asked to clean it up or even worse, that you will throw away their items without asking their permission.
Their Home Has So Much Clutter that Removing it is Difficult
While it is perfectly normal for retirees who’ve lived in the same residence for decades to accumulate a lot of stuff, if most of it is clutter, is completely disorganized and would take hours or even days to remove, you’ve probably have a hoarder on your hands. Another indirect danger of hoarding is that if the clutter is scattered all over the place there is an increased risk that elders will slip, fall and injure themselves.
They Have Difficulty Finding Stuff
People over the age of 65 will sometimes forget where they left certain items due to memory issues or cognitive decline. However, they might also misplace items because their home is too cluttered which makes finding any one item challenging. Another trait of hoarders is that many prefer keeping their valuables within eyesight, which means they won’t put stuff away and sometimes items will be stacked to the ceiling.
Why Some Elders Hoard
Elders hoard for many reasons, such as anxiety, depression, addiction and dementia. Many have a “rainy day” worldview which may be caused by financial instability either currently or during their youth. This may prompt them to hoard as it gives them a sense of comfort and control.
How You Can Help
When approaching your loved one about their hoarding, you must not seem demanding or judgmental. Steps you’ll want to follow include:
- Letting your loved one decide which items to keep and discard
- Begin the cleanup in small steps, starting with a single room
- Do not throw away items blindly, and this can cause serious frustration
- Seek professional help if your love one is unwilling or unable to change
Remember, while you might consider their belongings junk, to them it is valuable. However, the issue cannot be ignored, as hoarding can become dangerous if not addressed.