Elderly hoarding is different from collecting or being sentimental or frugal. In fact, many seniors are really known to hoard all sorts of things. If you are a parent and can relate to this elderly hoarding issue, here’s what you can do.
Compulsive elderly hoarding is a psychological disorder. Hoarding per se can be seen in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but in the elderly, this can be due to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Elderly hoarding can be a problem when it interferes with everyday activities and endangers the safety of the elderly and the people around them. This is then considered pathological hoarding.
People who are prone to collecting or saving items or have anxiety tend to be hoarders later in life. This can be due to the anxiety they feel of outliving their resources.
Also, dementia and Alzheimer’s can be culprits.
Hoarding can be their way to find comfort and security. It’s also a way of coping for elderly with dementia and Alzheimer’s. As brain function decreases, the compulsion to hold onto things increases.
This elderly hoarding behavior can also be due to confusion because they have started to lack the capacity to perform tasks, such as cleaning up or sorting through mail or clothes.
How to Handle Elderly Hoarding
1. Be kind. Don’t use harsh language when talking to them about their hoarding behavior. Remember to be empathetic, as they are not doing this on purpose. It’s also nothing personal on you. With the right language and tone, they may be convinced to throw away or give away their things.
2. Substitute with other activities. Distract them with things that they can be interested in. Make them form a new hobby or travel, even make new memories together that they can enjoy.
3. Have a memory box. Pick a box and decorate it together with your elderly parent. Store it in the same place all the time. Make them put what they like inside and this way, you can weed out the things that are not really necessary.
4. Monitor hiding places. If they know that you don’t like what they’re doing, they might hide it from you. So you have to know their hiding places and check them from time to time.
5. Talk to a professional. They may have clinical issues that need professional help. Their doctors can provide medication such as anti-depressants or anti-psychotics to keep their anxieties and compulsions in check.
Whatever happens, don’t lose your temper when dealing with an elderly hoarder. Patience, creativity, empathy, and even sense of humor can do the trick.