Is Your Senior Loved One a Hoarder? How You Can Help

Help a hoarder

As we get older, it’s only natural to accumulate personal belongings. That said, it isn’t uncommon for your elderly loved ones to have a lot of personal items from throughout their lifetime. However, there comes a point where having a lot of items isn’t simply collecting but rather hoarding. In fact, hoarding disorder is more common in people as they become older.

Hoarding is a disorder that can result in dangerous situations for the affected individual, so those affected by hoarding need to get help. But it isn’t easy. Those affected by hoarding do not usually reach out for help on their own out of embarrassment. A trusted friend or family member must reach out to them to help them realize that they have a problem that needs to be resolved.

However, it’s important to be able to differentiate between what makes someone a collector versus what makes someone a hoarder. Knowing this information will let you know when a senior loved one needs help, so you can make sure they get the help they deserve.

Continue reading to learn more what hoarding is, why people hoard, and what to do about senior hoarding.

What is Hoarding, and How is it Different from Collecting?

Hoarding - Seniors
An example of dangerous living conditions

Hoarding is a disorder in which someone has an inability to part from items even when they have no material or sentimental value. Because of this, the person chooses to keep these items. What makes it different from collecting is that the person accumulates and keeps meaningless items, which can include junk mail and even trash.

When someone is collecting something, the items being collected are searched for and have some sort of value. The collected items are usually well taken care of, organized, and on display. This isn’t the case with hoarded items. Instead, they’re often placed wherever in an unorganized manner.

If you notice that someone saves trash, keeps items even when they don’t have the space for them, purchases the same item several times, and/or has a tough time deciding what to keep and get rid of, then these are signs of hoarding.

Homes affected by hoarding are often messy and crowded featuring tripping hazards and unsanitary conditions. The affected individual has accumulated so many belongings that walkways are blocked and rooms cannot be accessed. In fact, so many items may have been accumulated that the individual is unable to cook for themselves or even bathe, as the equipment and areas needed for such activities cannot be used.

When visiting with senior relatives this holiday season look for these hoarding signs – click here.

What Causes Hoarding?

The exact cause for hoarding disorder is not known, but there are numerous risk factors associated with the disorder. Hoarding is a disorder that can manifest on its own but is often associated with obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Hoarding can also be associated with anxiety, dementia, and stress. For example, individuals who deal with anxiety may turn to hoarding because their anxious feelings make it tough for them to part with certain items. Hoarding may also be triggered by a traumatic event, such as a loved one’s death. The disorder is more commonly found in older adults and tends to run in families.

There are numerous reasons, too, as to why people affected by hoarding choose to keep the items they do. Individuals who hoard may believe an item is valuable even when it’s not, that an item may help with memories, that the item is irreplaceable, or that it is a bargain worth keeping.

How Can I Help My Senior Loved One Affected by Hoarding?

Help a hoarder
Help a hoarder

Look out for the aforementioned signs of hoarding if you suspect your elderly loved one is struggling with hoarding disorder.

If you discover that hoarding is a problem for a senior loved one, then you need to convince them that they need help. This, however, can be tough to do, because the affected individual may not feel as though it’s an issue. That is why it’s important to have a loved one speak to them about their issue. The affected individual will value the words coming from a person whom they trust.

When you speak to your senior loved one about getting help for hoarding, emphasize the dangers the disorder presents and how you just want them to be safe. With an accumulation of items, they present tripping hazards and make it tough to safely get around the home. You don’t want them to end up hurting themselves because of the contents in their home, and you need to let them know this.

These objects can also be blocking vents and heat sources, which can make the hoarded items fire hazards, too. If a fire breaks out because of this, not only will their contents be ruined, but they might have a difficult time leaving their home.

However, it’s important to only get a hoarding cleaning professional to help once they’ve agreed to it, because they, otherwise, might be uncooperative. If they aren’t for the hoarding clean up, it will be unsuccessful.

Professional Hoarding Cleanup

Once your elderly loved one has agreed to get professional hoarding cleaning help, reach out to ServiceMaster NCR for help. We provide hoarding clean up services in the Alexandria, VA, and Washington D.C. area to help clean and restore the homes of individuals affected by hoarding. Within our hoarder cleaning services, our professionals will remove debris, clean and disinfect the home, and clean remaining belongings.