Seniors are prone to hoarding. Just why that is, is a matter of conjecture. To date, there aren’t any conclusive studies on the subject. However, hoarding is often associated with dementia, and appears to increase along with the severity of the dementia. Additionally, approximately half of older adults who hoard also display mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Compulsive hoarding may also stem from a struggle for control and/or the tendency among those who lived during the Great Depression to hold onto things. The most commonly saved items include newspapers, old clothing, bags, books, mail, notes and lists.

There are different levels of hoarding, but any level can constitute a health threat. In fact, a study of elderly hoarders found that hoarding constituted a physical health threat to 81% of them, including threat of fire hazard, falling, unsanitary conditions, and inability to prepare food. So as you can see, those miles of piles of costume jewelry, furs from the 50’s, and stacks of newspapers dating back to World War II are not something to tsk tsk about. They could be the cause of a broken hip.

Helping people who hoard understand how their problem interferes in living the life they desire can be a powerful motivator when attempting to correct a hoarding situation, especially as it pertains to being able to live independently.

Live Free Home Health Care has trained home care aides who also can help with de-cluttering and organizing a home to create a safer environment for home care. For more tips to sensitively help with hoarding, click here.

To listen to an excellent interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Randy Frost and Gail Steketee, the writers of “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”, click here.