Hoarding is a disorder where someone has difficulty getting rid of useless objects. As the disorder worsens the person will save almost anything, most of which would be items we feel belong in the garbage. They may save up old newpapers, bottle caps and empty cans, just about any item imaginable. As the number of items they have hoarded grows, the less space they have available in their homes. At its worst hoarding will take over their lives to the point where they can barely move through their living space. Do you have a family hoarder?
Are their risk factors for hoarding?
- Social isolation. Most hoarders are socially isolated from others. They may live in more rural areas or they may just withdraw from society. Sometimes the isolation is the cause of the hoarding but it can also be the other way around. A person will become isolated because of their hoarding disorder.
- Alcohol abuse. About half of all hoarders abuse alcohol or have an alcohol dependency.
- Emotional disorders. Hoarding behaviours are more common among those who have depression or anxiety disorders. Personality disorders, addictions, PTSD and trauma can also be risk factors.
Hoarding often begins in childhood and adult children of senior hoarders may have lived with a compulsive “collector” throughout their childhood, only to see the collecting become fullblown hoarding as their parent became elderly. Other than dementia, hoarding disorder is the only mental disorder that becomes more common and more severe with age.
What can be done to help an elderly hoarder?
In most cases, elderly hoarding is dealt with when it’s time to move a parent or loved one into a senior facility. It is then that the extent of their hoarding comes to light. Your loved one may find it traumatic to be separated from what they feel are very important things. Adult children will have to put their guilt aside and decide what if anything is worth keeping from the stash the hoarder has built up through the years. Click here to read one woman’s story about her struggle to deal with the aftermath of her grandmother’s death and tips on hoarders.