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:
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.
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