How to Deal with Hoarding in Seniors

Many people like to collect things, from trinkets to photos and other mementos.  However, when collecting becomes hoarding it can be dangerous and hazardous to a senior’s health.  While hoarders are a tiny portion of the population, many of those who hoard are over the age of 55.

What is Hoarding?

Hoarding is a compulsive behavior that cannot be controlled; it may result from a mental or emotional disease that is often unknown.  It can also stem from anxiety or loneliness.  Seniors who are hoarders are often embarrassed by the condition of their home or afraid that someone will force them to move or get rid of their possessions so they do not let anyone find out.

Hoarding can take the form of possessions, such as items that are past use and should be thrown away or even brand new items that have never been taken out of a box or used.  You will often find clothing or fabric goods with the tags still on them.

Some people hoard animals and keep many more than what they are able to take care of.  You have likely heard of stories where someone had 30 or 40 cats – they are what we will call hoarders.

How Can Hoarding be/become Dangerous?

You may wonder what is wrong with having a lot of stuff.  With hoarders, they do not know when to stop and keep adding to the piles of things they own until it clutters up their walkway and even their kitchen and bathroom.  Several issues come up with hoarding, including:

  • Danger of falling from items lying in the pathway
  • Lack of cleanliness because items are in the shower and sink
  • Spoiled food that they won’t through away but could make them sick if they eat
  • An infestation of pests
  • Breathing substances from bad food or moldy, musty items
  • Danger of animal bites if they have too many pets

What are the Signs of a Hoarder?

How can you tell if your loved one is secretly hoarding things?  You may know they don’t have too many pets, but do you know if they hoard food or other items?  Here are some signs to help you identify a hoarder:

  • They won’t invite you to their home and they keep you out if you come by.
  • They wear the same clothes for days in a row.
  • They may have body odor.
  • They may get upset if you suggest throwing anything away or even moving it.
  • They collect worthless items instead of collectibles.
  • Food is piled up in the refrigerator or the pantry and they buy several containers of one item at a time.
  • If you assist them with their finances, you may see extreme spending at the grocery store or another location.


How Can You Help a Hoarder?

If your senior family member is a hoarder, there are two things you will have to do.  First, you need to help them with the cause of the hoarding just like you would with anything else.  If a disorder is the cause, they can get treatment.  If it is anxiety or some other emotion, they may need to speak with a counselor.

Second, you will need to help them clean up their home to make it safe for them.  This process often works better if you can get their assistance in organizing and tossing items.  Once you have the home clean and safe for them to live in again, you may want to consider homecare services to help keep it that way.

Sometimes seniors get overwhelmed by things such as paying bills or cleaning their home and need help to get those tasks taken care of.  If you are too busy to handle everything, you can use homecare services to send in caregivers for these jobs.  They can also spend time with your loved one if loneliness is part of the cause of their hoarding.  A caregiver can also alert you if they begin to show hoarding behavior in the future.

We at Carefect Homecare Service can assist your loved ones to handle many of the tasks that you or they feel are too difficult for them to handle on their own.  Our caregivers can help with light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, medication reminders and much more.  They can take the senior for a walk or spend time with them to ease the loneliness.  Carefect Homecare Services can care for your loved one when you can’t be there and give you peace of mind.