It’s normal to hang onto sentimental keepsakes and memories from our lives, and this is even more true for older adults and seniors who have more precious times to remember! However, when it goes too far and leads to people living in extremely cluttered or dirty living situations, it could be a sign of hoarding.
Here’s what hoarding is, what makes it dangerous, and how to broach the topic with seniors in your care.
What is hoarding?
Hoarding refers to when a person compulsively buys and/or keeps objects to the point that the sheer amount of stuff causes health and safety issues in their home. It’s known to be an issue among older people.
Seniors hoarding will often try to resist other people’s attempts to get rid of their possessions by saying that they need them, either now or down the line, that they have value, or other excuses to hang on to things that they don’t really need.
Although it might sound harmless, it can quickly become dangerous. Hoarding too many objects can mean that hallways are blocked, making it hard for the senior to leave their home or for people like paramedics or caregivers to access in an emergency.
It could also be a fire or trip hazard if belongings are stored in an unsafe fashion. A pile-up of too many objects will also make it hard to clean the space, making it more likely for unhygienic conditions to occur.
Hoarding and seniors
Seniors hoarding can be a delicate topic to approach. It can be connected to health issues, like OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) or dementia, so it can be useful to bring up the subject with a doctor present, as well.
If you prefer to do it in private, remember that this can be a very emotional conversation. The older person may be embarrassed or defensive about their actions, so be kind in how you approach it and avoid judgment.
Offer a range of solutions, so that the senior still knows they have a choice in how to live their life. For example, you can lay out the different forms of help available to them and encourage them to pick the one that suits them best.
Hoarding help for seniors
When it comes to these choices of where to seek help, therapy can be a useful tool, even if hoarding isn’t connected to a medical diagnosis. Understanding the root cause of the hoarding can help to start unpacking the behaviors.
You can also help seniors to unlearn their habits. Break it down into small steps: today, we are just going to clean one shelf in this room. Over time, it should get easier and easier for the unhealthy patterns to fall apart.
If you need any other help and advice on how to take care of seniors, contact the Best Care team today at (651) 330-2550!