Many of us are culprits of hoarding to a certain degree – we hold onto a certain magazine for too long or save receipts we will probably never need.
But when a person’s habits crosses the line into hoarding, it can have dangerous consequences. Hoarding is most common among older adults and is especially dangerous as it can present several hazards to their health and increase their fall risk.
At Alvita Care, we are often asked to help aging family members address their hoarding problem. A good way to avoid elderly hoarding is to make regular visits to your loved-one’s household and make you set up seasonal cleaning days. Elderly parents may sometimes be hesitant to throw out their belongings but here are some tips to help clean out the house without stepping on your parents’ toes.
1. Go through a social worker or third party. This may seem like a strange remedy, but research from the Boston University School of Social Work shows that increasing a person’s trust in their social worker makes it easier to change hoarding behavior in the elderly. To put a stop to elderly hoarding, trust has to be developed, especially in individuals with signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Results from the study showed that there was a significant increase in distrust and distress in the elderly once family members tried to clean out the homes without approval. Going through this process with a social worker who is not a family member helps families maintain good relationships with their loved ones. The third party individual involved can help ensure that the individual feels they are in control of the cleaning and organization process.
2. Plan a clean-up date. Addressing messiness or hoarding with an elderly loved one is a difficult topic to approach. Staging an intervention with as many family members as possible may help get through to your elderly loved-one. This is an inevitable conversation that has to take peace before your elderly parent gets hurt from their hoarding habit. Weekends are probably best for this to take place as one can devote an entire day to this important conversation.
3. Baby steps: One room at a time. If you your elderly-parent’s home has been neglected for many years, cleaning may feel like an uphill battle with multiple rooms and layers of items to sift through. The key is to take baby steps and get your elderly parents living quarters back into an organized and safe environment. Assigning simple and measurable goals, like cleaning one room a week, can be helpful when trying to conquer the larger task.
There are multiple reasons why you want to pay attention to any signs of elderly hoarding.
Hoarding can often be an indication that the individual is depressed or is exhibiting compulsive behaviors. In addition, hoarding can be an early symptom of dementia. When the hoarding habit interferes with the personal safety or hygiene of your loved ones, you should intervene as soon as possible. It is important to help your loved one feel like they are in control of the situation before cleaning and organizing their home – doing so without their consent or knowledge will only further distress them and move them into a deeper depression. Catching this behavior early on is the best way to prevent this habit from becoming a long-term burden.