Hoarding is an increasing and perplexing phenomenon. So much so, that in 2013, the DSMV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) recognised hoarding as a mental health condition.
Hoarding behaviours can be complex and difficult to comprehend. Hoarding Disorder more often than not involves co-conditions such as depression or anxiety. It can take a huge personal toll on everyone involved, including family and friends, can damage relationships and contribute to social isolation.
As we age, hoarding situations, hoarding tendencies or collecting behaviours can increase or develop due to cognitive and/or physical decline leading to difficulty or an inability to make decisions. In some cases, people who once were very organised can become untidy and disorganised, affecting their ability to live well. Life changes from loss and grief can add another emotional layer to collecting or hoarding behaviours.
allsorter Mary specialises in working with senior adults in their third age (60+), including those with “hoarding” or “collecting tendencies” –
- She often hears from families who are distressed about a loved one’s situation. Their situation maybe due to Hoarding Disorder, squalor, a life event or something else. It is essential that the person is open to assistance. Results can take time. The aim is to find a way forward to help them manage their stuff.
- If your loved one is not yet open to assistance, letting them know there is patient and non-judgemental help when they need it may be the first step.
- If there is a move on the horizon to smaller living, possibly a retirement community or aged care residence, this provides an opportunity for all parties to set out a plan to facilitate the move.
- A forced clean out may achieve short-term results but can result in a loss of trust and possible damage to the relationship. It is not recommended. Please consider carefully the consequences before pursuing a forced clean out.
For those with life long hoarding or collecting behaviours, research indicates the value of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to encourage new thinking patterns along with working with a support team (either/or family/friends/professionals). Thankfully there is more research and understanding of the issue available now but only limited research on hoarding and ageing.
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, please ensure you find the right support team who are patient, non-judgmental and experienced to help identify ways to move forward to manage the situation as effectively as possible:
- To explore new ways of thinking
- To provide hands on help to deal with the stuff
Decluttering and letting stuff go is about making decisions, thus if hoarding behaviours are due to cognitive decline, therapy may not be as effective. As we age, it maybe more about rehabilitation therapy and ongoing support with sorting, organising, tidying up and maintaining a healthy living space.