When “Collecting” Becomes a Hoard

HoardingIt’s natural to want to hold on to valuable possessions, especially if they hold sentimental value. However, a study by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that in 6.2% of those over the age of 55, this natural inclination to hold on to sentimental objects often progresses to hoarding.

What is Hoarding?
Compulsive hoarding disorder is a condition where someone has a hard time getting rid of possessions because they feel a need to hold on to them. When this happens, it can create dangerous living conditions because the houses of those who hoard become filled with these possessions, and all rooms become very crowded.

But why does the percentage of those who hoard increase with age? It’s thought that since seniors may experience a decline in their quality of life and tend to spend more time at home, away from others, they begin to hoard possessions as a way to cope with this isolation and potential depression.

What Should Caregivers Watch For?
Caregivers and Home Health Aides should keep an eye out for any instances where the senior has a continuous struggle getting rid of items, regardless of their monetary or sentimental value.

In-home caregivers are able to watch and monitor any signs of obsession with holding on to things that normally should have no value. When starting a new case homecare CNAs will be able to see if there is an accumulation of clutter and bring it to the attention of family and medical providers.

Tips for Approaching a Senior About Hoarding

  • Show Empathy – It’s important to understand that hoarding, especially in the elderly, many times stems from the isolation and depression that can occur as health-related problems pop up. Because of this, all caregivers will need to show empathy towards the senior as the family begins to put professional intervention in place.
  • Be Patient – Escalating the conversation to the point of arguing will only put the senior on the defensive, potentially setting this hoarding behavior in stone. If they feel as though they cannot talk to you without being offended, they will likely refuse to discuss any way to solve the situation.
  • Remind Them of Life’s Value – As previously discussed, hoarding in the elderly typically stems from a decline in quality of life. Discuss with your loved one that their life still has a lot of value, even if they get rid of these items, and that moments and memories are tied to more than just objects. Your loved one’s caregiver can also encourage them to spend more time with family and friends so that they refrain from isolating themselves and see that there is more to life than collected objects. Caregivers are certainly not qualified to offer professional mental health advice, but they can offer compassionate understanding as they inform home health management of their concerns and observations.
  • Seek Help – Family members should not be afraid to seek help early before the hoard grows to a point where it presents unsafe living conditions for the senior. A professional therapist can usually help treat these underlying conditions if help is brought in early enough.

At Allcare Home Health, our in-home CNAs and PCAs receive ongoing training in knowing how to recognize signs of any type of concerning behavior. Call us today to schedule an in-home assessment by one of our experienced RNs. (919) 301-0236


[1] https://nhcoa.org/compulsive-hoarding-in-older-adults