23 Mar Five Signs of Hoarding in Seniors
Learn to spot when it’s more than just clutter afflicting your elder loved one.
One of the most tragic issues concerning a living space is when a loved one exhibits hoarding behaviors that compromise their quality of life.
It is normal to accumulate personal items over the years. At what point does collecting things cross the line into hoarding? This pattern of accumulation becomes debilitating for the individual when these items interfere with the daily home life. Hoarding can be defined as an excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them per the Mayo Clinic.
The Statistics on Hoarding
Researchers estimate that as much as 5% of the U.S. population could be considered a mild hoarder and as many as 15 million people could be full blown hoarders. The problem with determining more exact numbers is drawing a line between what is considered clutter and what is really hoarding. About 10 percent of hoarders will display the rarer and more serious Diogenes syndrome.
Raising awareness about hoarding disorder is the first step in being able to recognize when an individual suffers from it, understanding how to react, and providing help. Here are five signs that indicate someone suffers from hoarding disorder:
Hoarding may be associated with isolation, in which the senior withdraws from life and society. The senior may avoid social situations and other people, which inspire feelings of anxiety in them. Seniors can be wary of strangers and show extreme aggression and hostility if confronted. They could be distrusting of medical professionals and establishments, and may refuse medical assistance. Loneliness often results as well.
Seniors hoarders will, unsurprisingly, neglect their home, and could be living in extreme filth. Hoarding is a primary characteristic, but usually any items collected have no value and are mostly junk. Trash will surround both the outside and the inside of the home, so safety is a concern. The unsanitary condition of the home often leads to potential for complaints from neighbors and a rodent infestation. The senior may be oblivious to the state of their home and will not ask for help.
Lack of Self Care
Senior hoarders may be unaware they are lacking in the area of self-care and show no shame for their personal appearance. Their personal hygiene may be completely neglected. A lack of bathing could result in body odor, matted hair, and skin rashes. Hoarders tend to have poor diet as well, so look for potential malnutrition and dehydration.
Recent Changes In Health
An illness or injury may precede hoarding behaviors. A traumatic brain injury is one such example. Health issues that limit your loved one’s mobility may contribute to hoarding as well. Providing your loved one with housekeeping services during and after recovery can prevent trash from piling up.
Stacks of Mail and Expired food
Seniors sometimes hoard food because they are fearful of not being able to get to the store. Check your loved one’s pantry and refrigerator for expired food. Look for signs that they have been compulsively buying more than necessary. Elders may also hoard paperwork out of the fear they might toss out something important. Keep an eye out for overflowing mail being kept around, unopened or not.
Seniors often require assistance with daily activities to age in the comfort of their homes. Read our insights for tips to help your senior loved one maintain a higher quality of life.
Aging adults who need help around the house, accompaniment to medical appointments and social events, and assistance with exercise can benefit from having an in-home support provider. Seniors can enjoy greater independence and receive regular stimulation when relying on a trusted caregiver who is trained in different aspects of senior care.