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Need to Know

Elderly Hoarding Behavior: What You Need to Know

The hoarding issue has been a popular topic in the media, earning itself a whole television series about people who have exhibited dangerous hoarding behavior. Thus, it is no surprise that hoarding behavior can be found amongst the elderly. It is important to recognize the signs of hoarding and to protect your aging parents from putting themselves in danger. Not only can hoarding behavior make living spaces cramped and uncomfortable, but excessive hoarding can obstruct walkways and make it difficult for the elderly to move safely about their home. Here are some tips from the Alvita Care Team on how to recognize if your loved one may be at risk of hoarding.

Hoarding is most easily identifiable by the following traits: acquiring and failing to discard large amounts of possessions, living in spaces that are so cluttered that they can no longer be used for their intended purposes, and signs that your loved one could be significantly distressed. The combination of all three of these symptoms is a sign that hoarding has become a serious disorder for your loved ones, and they need your help.

Specifically, within the elderly generation, hoarding can be the product of being unwilling to part with possessions after moving into a smaller home. Hoarding can also be a secondary symptom of dementia as a result of no longer being able to maintain organization within the home. Additionally, if they have lost a spouse, unwillingness to part with old possessions may be a way of coping with loss. Visible signs that your aging loved one may be a hoarder are broken appliances, structural damages within the home that poses hazards, and unsanitary living conditions. Often these much-needed repairs are due to a fear of being discovered by authorities who might judge their homes.

Because of its roots in the psyche, there is no cure for hoarding behavior.

Nevertheless, treatments and intervention methods have been developed to help hoarders restore organization and order to their lives. What remains the biggest hurdle in treatments and interventions is that patients must be willing to improve their living conditions and change their habits. This can be difficult, especially when hoarding has become hazardous for the individual. Treatment research has begun to focus on a treatment method called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which focuses on alleviating current symptoms and changing current habits rather than focusing on the past and the source of distress. CBT focuses on motivating patients to change their behavior through positive encouragement that will enable patients to make independent decisions on sorting, organizing, and de-cluttering their living spaces.

When beginning the treatment and intervention process, it is important to be respectful of your loved one’s possessions. Not only can organizing and sorting possessions cause distress for your loved ones, but they can become upset or angry. Thus, when preparing to clean your parent’s home, it is important to do so slowly and to check for permission, reminding them of why it is important to clean their living space.

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