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Senior Hoarding Issues

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December 15, 2010

Breaking Point: Decoding the Problems of Seniors and Hoarding

Leading Senior Care Company Advises Family Caregivers to Help Older Adults De-Clutter During Spring Cleaning to Avoid Household Hazards

You enter your dad's home and can't believe the stacks of stuff that have accumulated on every flat surface: piles of newspapers and mail everywhere, the medicine cabinet overflowing with 10 years worth of hair spray (despite his being bald), heaps of dirty laundry on the bed so there is no place for him to sleep. You wonder how it got this bad.

"A lifetime accumulation of possessions combined with a daily influx of junk mail, bills and newspapers can quickly overwhelm seniors who may already be struggling physically, mentally or emotionally," said Home Instead Senior Care Co-Founder Paul Hogan.

Experts say that seniors are prone to cluttering for a variety of reasons, including fear of loss, anxiety, depression, not knowing how to get rid of possessions, or even memories associated with specific items that hold no intrinsic value.

Senior clutter diagram

"It's sort of the elephant in the room," added Dr. Catherine Roster, a University of New Mexico clutter researcher. "People don't want to acknowledge there is a problem, which creates an underlying anxiety, stress, guilt or embarrassment that can have a negative effect on their mental health and productivity. There are a lot of issues including economics. When there is general disorganization, people lose important documents and can't find bills and then miss payments. So some serious issues start affecting them. All the research shows that people are slow to recognize the problem."

And for seniors, the risks of living in clutter are many, from slipping on loose papers to the threat of fire to the health effects of mold and mildew. Clutter can also interfere with family relationships and leave adult children wondering if the only inheritance awaiting them is a big mess.

In order to identify potential trouble, the Home Instead Senior Care network is alerting family caregivers to watch for the signs in a senior's home that indicate clutter creep could become a problem including:

  • Piles of mail and unpaid bills.
  • Difficulty walking safely through a home.
  • Frustration trying to organize.
  • Difficulty managing activities of daily living.
  • Expired food in the refrigerator.
  • Jammed closets and drawers.
  • Compulsive shopping.
  • Difficulty deciding whether to discard items.
  • A health episode such as a stroke or dementia.
  • Loneliness.

"Family caregivers can become just as overwhelmed as seniors," said Home Instead Senior Care's Hogan. "Spring is a great time for family caregivers to help seniors de-clutter for their own health and well-being. We suggest a three-step plan where the family caregiver brings three bins -- one for the stuff the senior wants to keep, one for donations and the other for trash. Sometimes seniors just need a little help. One Home Instead CAREGiver helped her client go through a basement full of newspapers and clipped the important articles that he wanted to save, enabling him to throw away the bulk of the clutter. That was a relief to both the senior and his children."


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  1. September 3, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Posted by addressourmess

    Some seniors may suffer from Diogenes Syndrome, or Senile Squalor Syndrome. This happens when seniors can no longer move themselves to take care of their bodies or their surroundings. This very serious condition can be learned about here: http://www.clutterhoardingcleanup.com/tag/senile-squalor/

    Reply

  2. August 25, 2012 at 1:35 am | Posted by nettie

    My husband a 60 year old man have a difficult time remembering things and it has caused many overflowed sinks of water and he does not remember turning the water on. He leaves the doors open and gets angry when I tell him to close the door. He gets angry when I tell him things to do because he forgets nd he doesn't like for me to tell him what to do and I am trying my best to help him. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply

  3. February 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Posted by Vikki

    what do you do if your elderly parent will not allow you to help organize...she get's hysterical if I even suggest to help? She won't allow you to help with anything in her home. SO I have to try and clean up wen she is not looking. It is terrible.Very stressful. She even got mad after she found out I dusted her room. She goes on and on...Something is very wrong here. help!

    Reply

    • July 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Posted by Navi

      You need professionals to step in with this problem. It can be overwhelming and stressful for you to try to deal with this alone.

      Reply

  4. October 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Posted by jamie

    my dad forces me to hoard and i get in trouble with my apartment manager - he brings stuff here and if try to tell him no he will not shut up until give in and if he catches me even wanting to throw stuff in the trash then he starts in on how i should keep stuff since i might need it some day - i get in trouble with my apartment manager trying to make dad shut up and i get dad always on me about how throwing stuff in the trash is a bad idea if i try to make my apartment manager happy since a 400 square foot apartment is not big enough for free stand furniture and not allowed to attach to walls so room organizers is not allowed and free stand furniture is designed for 5 room houses - i do not have the money to buy a 50000 square foot building to make dad shut up but i want to make him shut up and leave me alone about all this just keep stuff crap - there is no true hoarder help in my area only places that think they know all and really know less than nothing - i have no problem with the idea of using the trash but i hate dad always yelling at me for throwing a desk away that takes up half a room

    Reply

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