June 20, 2017

It can be difficult enough to move your loved ones to a senior living community, but downsizing can be even more of a challenge if your senior is also a hoarder. Hoarding is characterized by a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. Research has discovered that hoarding gets progressively worse as a person gets older, and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease can worsen one’s hoarding tendencies. Here are some helpful ways to understand and deal with senior hoarding.

What is hoarding?

Compulsive hoarding is a psychological disorder that is associated with anxiety and OCD. While it may manifest differently for each individual, it is commonly characterized by an excessive collection of items with the inability to dispose of them. Hoarding often results in a cramped and dangerous living space, especially for aging adults.

Why do seniors hoard?

In general, people tend to hoard because they have experienced great emotional distress, such as a loss, anxiety, or depression. They may hold onto their possessions as a way to cope with their feelings and hold onto memories from the past. Recent research has also found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease may be more prone to hoarding because they feel their memories will be lost without their physical possessions. Other factors, such as senior isolation and loneliness may also cause older adults to hoard.

How is hoarding treated?

Treating hoarding in seniors involves more than just disposing of their clutter. Talking to your loved one’s doctor about his or her hoarding tendencies is a good place to start, as some patients may be suffering from a more serious cognitive or psychological disorder that could be treated with therapy or medication.

If hoarding is affecting your loved one’s daily life, moving them to a senior living community is also a great way to give them a fresh start and help them downsize. Be patient and gentle when approaching downsizing with your senior loved one, because getting rid of their possessions will likely be painful and time-consuming. By understanding and recognizing the symptoms of hoarding, you can help your loved ones resist hoarding and live a more enjoyable, clutter-free life.

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