All That Stuff

As kids, many of us were fortunate to be able to think of our parents' home as a place that had everything we needed: plenty of food, pots and pans for cooking, enough clean sheets and towels (plus a few extra old ones for when the family dog got a bath), maybe even some pretty little knick-knacks to keep things interesting. It felt comforting to know these things were always there.​

But sometimes "just enough" can become too much. In the past few decades, the troubling issue of hoarding has become a national topic. According to at least one study, as many as four million Americans are hoarders, and many more are believed to be somewhere on the spectrum of "problematic cluttering behavior."

Older people hoard for a number of reasons. Those who lived through war or the Great Depression may feel they are arming themselves against future privation. Others develop sentimental attachments to things that remind them of happy times in their lives. Some are lonely or looking to fill time by shopping or collecting things. And some just feel overwhelmed and don't have the wherewithal to sort through their belongings, so things just keep piling up.

Whatever the cause, hoarding is not a harmless eccentricity. It can be dangerous, costly, and a problem that impacts others – not just the hoarder. Some of the hazards of hoarding include:

  • Misplacing: With so many things around, it's easy to lose important documents and other necessary items.
  • Falling: Older adults tend to need wider pathways, but mountains of belongings encroach upon them, creating the potential for loss of balance, tripping and other fall risks.
  • Fire: Piles of paper, clothing, chemicals and electrics add up to a huge fire risk, and once the fire begins, it will have lots of opportunities to grow and spread. Plus, it will be harder to get out of the home – or for the firefighters to get in – when there is so much clutter in the way.
  • Structural damage: Eventually, the weight of so many things could break through the floor.
  • Avalanche: It's a terrifying thought, but some people have been buried in their own home.
  • Inherited problem:  Those who care for a hoarder often inherit the problem when the person passes away or moves to a care facility. They may also find that companies that specialize in clearing hoarded homes charge in the double digits, and opt to take on the momentous task of purging it all themselves.

If hoarding is a problem for someone you know, it's important to take steps now to begin to lighten the load. If you can, begin talking (respectfully) with the person to get the problem out in the open as often hoarding is a secretive problem. Also, consider hiring a professional CAREGiver who can help them begin to clear away some of the items, or provide companionship so they don't feel compelled to accumulate.

For more information about the well-being of older adults please contact us!


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