Hoarding, “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them” as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is becoming an increasingly common problem among senior and aging adults. While the causes for hoarding are unclear, when the issue is not managed, the senior’s safety, health and wellbeing can be threatened. If you are concerned that an aging parent or loved one may be hoarding, Home Care Assistance of New Hampshire presents some of the most common warning signs of hoarding:
- Cluttered Living Spaces – When you look around your parents’ home and cannot see a single uncluttered surface, there should be some cause for concern. Hoarders will often accumulate so many things that areas of the home become unsuitable for their intended purpose. For instance, a kitchen may become piled with papers, books or other possessions, making it difficult, impossible or unsafe to cook in.
- Closets Full of Unworn Clothing – Take a few minutes to flip through the clothing in your loved one’s closet. Many times hoarders form an emotional attachment to belongings such as clothing and find it extremely difficult letting them go. Your loved one may even feel uncomfortable with you touching or borrowing these items, afraid they will lose them all together.
- Missed Payments and Overdue Bills – If your mother or father complains of collection calls or if you notice they are not paying their bills, this could be a sign of hoarding. Hoarders often have difficultly organizing items and amass so much clutter that importance pieces of information such as bills are often misplaced or lost.
- Collection of Seemingly Useless Items – When people think of clutter, they often think of a variety of personal possessions that have been collected over a period of time, many of which may have significant personal meaning. However, a person who hoards will collecting items that have little to no use such as napkins from restaurants or old advertisements and coupons from the mail.
There are also emotional warning signs of hoarding. If your loved one seems withdrawn, or has limited social interactions with others and expresses feelings of shame or embarrassment when you speak to them about the mess in their home, they likely suffer from hoarding disorder. Many hoarders will also tell those asking about their home that they feel safer when surrounded by the things that they save.
If you notice any of the above warning signs, scheduling an appointment with your loved one’s doctor could help determine if there are any underlying causes for their behavior. There are also many organizations dedicated to helping seniors de-clutter and take back their homes and independence.