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Thoughts About Aged Care – Hoarding Makes You Older Before You Age

Hoarding has been recognised as a disorder that affects around 6% of the population and it sits under the psychology of OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Even though at the start it may appear harmless, it can lead to greater anxiety, social isolation and tension with family and friends. The result of ongoing and untreated hoarding disorder is that it ages people before well before their time.

It is more common with ageing because this can be a time when people feel a loss of control about how and where they are going to live as they age, trying to hold on to anything which might give them a sense of security.

Why people hoard

Hoarding is a way of maintaining some control and reducing anxiety, which it can do for a temporary period, but this is soon replaced by more anxiety as the clutter in their home invades living spaces.

Hoarding creates a barrier between the person who is hoarding and the rest of the world, a safe zone that does not allow intruders to come in.

There is a difference between clutter and hoarding. Some people just like lots of things but there is purpose, function and organisation around these things. Hoarding is when clutter impinges on living spaces, restricting access to areas of the home that were once used for productive reasons.

Symptoms of hoarding

  • Living spaces have unnecessary and unused clutter
  • There are piles of newspapers, magazines or junk mail
  • There are items that have no use or clearly past their use by date (as above)
  • People who hoard do not want to discard anything
  • They may move items from one pile to another when there is no use for them
  • There is an over-attachment to items that have no use
  • Anxiety is triggered when others touch belongings or worse, discuss throwing them out
  • There is indecision about where to put things and how to organise them
  • They do not want friends and family to visit because even though they hoard, they are embarrassed about the way their home looks.

How does hoarding impact the Wellbeing of ageing people?

Unless hoarding is addressed, it only gets worse and can lead to several problems for people as they age:

  • Risk of falling as the home becomes cluttered and there are too many things to dodge or step over
  • Financial difficulties because they are buying more stuff they do not need
  • Risks to their health in general with more opportunity for dust and mould to grow
  • Withdrawal from their community and staying home more because they are literally being caved in by the clutter
  • It’s a heath hazard as there may be broken or malfunctioning electrical appliances that don’t work
  • Social isolation because people are embarrassed of having visitors turn up when they have so much clutter

How do you help someone who hoards?

Helping someone with a hoarding problem can create more feelings of anxiety than you may be able to handle, so we would recommend asking for professional help. A visit to a trusted GP may be a good place to start who might be able to refer them to someone.

However, if it is a family member or friend and you’d like to offer your support, here are a few ways to start:

  • Help them to identify an area of the home that they are not so emotionally attached to and discuss how you could tidy it up together
  • Start with removing a small pile of papers/magazines and ask them to help you take it to the trash – go gently and allow them to be in control of the removal
  • Develop more trust in your relationship and ask them permission to do some of the cleaning when you visit
  • Take them out of the house – visit uncluttered spaces so that they get in touch with how it feels to be able to breathe easily in your surrounds – a walk in the park or on the beach is ideal
  • Be understanding – you may need to raise the issue of hoarding several times before anything improvement is made
  • Allow them to feel in control – if you remark about the clutter or try to force removal of objects, you will only worsen things. Let them be in control as you suggest ways to remove clutter.

Less clutter = less worry

These suggestions may or may not help, but in our experience, we have observed that in many cases, we have been able to help people in our home care to let go of clutter after persisting gently with the subject over time. Eventually, as trust builds between us and our clients, we are able to help them let go of clutter. We reiterate that a tidy home means a tidy mind and less clutter = less worry.

We are passionate about seeing people live happily, safely and for the rest of their lives comfortably at home. With our experienced home care staff, we help people throughout Adelaide stay at home, assisting them with their health and wellbeing, their homes and their pets.

Call us today on (08) 8331 3791 to discuss your home care options and how we may be able to help you create a healthier happier home for your most important years yet!


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