Last Updated on July 10, 2022
According to a study performed at the University of California in San Francisco, hoarding in the elderly is a serious problem, with approximately 16 percent of older adults suffering from senior hoarding. There are many reasons you may be dealing with an elderly parent who is a hoarder, and helping a hoarder who doesn’t want help can cause serious strain within the family as family members try to help.
Read on to learn more about how to spot an elderly parent hoarder, about hoarding and seniors, and what options are available for hoarding assistance for the elderly.
Elderly Parent Hoarders: How to Spot Hoarding as It Progresses
If you believe your elderly parent is a hoarder, it’s likely something that didn’t happen overnight. Hoarding is progressive, and there are five stages of hoarding to be on the lookout for to determine if your loved one may be beginning to hoard. The stages are:
- Clutter that’s not concerning. Your loved one’s home may be beginning to fill with clutter, but it’s not a concern yet—doorways, windows, and other parts of the home are accessible, there are no foul odors, and sufficient ventilation in the home.
- Hygiene deteriorates. Along with hoarding typically comes deteriorating hygiene. This doesn’t always necessarily mean personal hygiene (although that is a concern) and can mean hygiene of the home. Laundry may be overflowing, trash is overflowing, clutter is beginning to block doors and windows, and there is pet feces or urine in the home (if your loved one owns pets).
- Extreme disorganization. The next stage for the elderly and hoarding is extreme disorganization. At this stage, there may be infestations of creatures such as roaches, mice, ants, etc., one room is no longer being used because it’s full of items, the living space is extremely disorganized and hard to walk through, and there may be spills and messes that never get cleaned.
- Excessive clutter and defensive behavior. As the disease of hoarding progresses, you may want to seek hoarding help for seniors at this stage. During stage four, you may find broken appliances, structural damage, or nonworking plumbing. There may be a backup of sewage or problems in the bathroom, stairs, exits, windows, and other important places are blocked, and there can also be excessive food hoarding in the elderly or moldy and rotting food.
- Severe unsanitary conditions. Stage 5 comes with an official hoarding diagnosis. At this stage, there is no ventilation, the home is essentially unlivable, and animal and human health is at risk.
If you see this progression and believe there is elderly parent hoarding going on, it may be time to look for help for elderly hoarders, although you can sit down and have a heart-to-heart with your loved one first, although it may be difficult.
Elderly Parent Hoarders: Reasons for Hoarding
Understanding hoarding in older adults can be challenging, and it’s important to understand the possible reasons for elderly parent hoarders. Many people may ask, “Is hoarding a symptom of dementia?” The answer is—not really. Other prominent factors can contribute to elderly parent hoarders and they are:
- Stressful events, such as grief, trauma, or serious medical problems
- Attention-deficit disorder (which can occur in adults)
- Declining health; your loved one is not ambulatory enough to keep things tidy
- Family history of hoarding
- Onset of a mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
If your loved one is struggling with one of the above issues, they need help with their hoarding, and the underlying issues that cause the hoarding must also be treated.
How to Deal with Your Loved Ones Hoarding
If you see the progression of hoarding and aren’t yet ready to call in government help for hoarders or other agencies, you can try to have a heart-to-heart to see if your loved one is open to help. This should be done gently and with care; elderly parent hoarders can become quite defensive and feel “attacked” if the subject is brought up. Here are some tips on dealing with a loved one who’s a hoarder:
- Talk to them civilly and gently. Your loved one may become angry and defensive; make sure you stay gentle and calm.
- Don’t enable. Don’t offer to take items to store at home, for example.
- Explain the dangers of hoarding. Let your elderly parent hoarder know that there are diseases caused by hoarding, such as bacterial infections and long-term respiratory problems.
- Do not take away their possessions without permission. It’s unwise to start cleaning up yourself and throwing things out, as this could greatly upset your loved one.
- Look for treatment. If your loved one is open to it, look for free hoarding help for seniors or medical intervention.
- Help them if they’re open to it. If your loved one wants to declutter, always offer to help.
There may be times when professional help and intervention is needed. For example, you may want to seek the help of a medical professional, mainly if there is a comorbid problem, such as anxiety or depression, or you may want to seek targeted programs to help seniors overcome hoarding. For instance, Catholic Charities offers a low- to no-cost treatment program specifically designed for elderly hoarding.
To learn more about how to help with elderly parent hoarding, or want to hear more about mobility products that can be life-changing, such as stair lifts or wheelchair ramps, contact Williams Lift Co. today. We want caregivers and their loved ones to live their best lives.