While hoarding is definitely not a problem that solely affects seniors, it can become an issue for elderly adults for several reasons. A lifetime of hanging onto precious items can eventually result in simply having too much stuff. A move to a smaller home can bring about an initial clean-out, but later the person may be used to purchasing or keeping more than the new home can hold. There are also the mental reasons people hoard, which can become more pronounced with the onset of dementia or other diseases. The underlying mental reasons of why people hoard can be varied, but what can be done about the problem?
If there is just some clutter here and there, or it’s more stuff than you feel comfortable with, but the senior is happy – ask yourself if it’s important. If the items give them joy and only make their place feel messy, maybe it’s not worth the anguish of trying to get them to throw things out. But when it becomes a safety issue, either from the amount of dust that’s accumulating (especially if they or consistent visitors are allergic) or from the clutter impeding pathways, it’s time to start talking about the issue. The number one cause of falls for seniors is when they’re on the way to the bathroom, so if the pathway is not clear for any reason, that needs to solved.
When it becomes time to confront the problem, be sure to keep the senior involved as much as possible. Sending them out for the day for them to return to a cleaned out house can be devastating for them. So start slow: make short, accomplishable lists and play music while you clean. If they’re resisting and you have permission to speak to their doctor, don’t hesitate to mention the issue.
There are qualified personal that help people pare down their items to a manageable and safe level. A quick Internet search should give you results and reviews. If you have any suggestions for those types of businesses and individuals, please let us know in the comments below. And good luck!