As our parents age, many problems may begin to arise as their abilities decline. Elderly care can become a task tough enough without the added problem of hoarding, but in many cases, hoarding is an issue. As our parents age, their quality of life can decline and because of this hoarding may become a risk factor. Approximately 3 – 5% of adults experience hoarding and 15% of older adults experience depression as a result of hoarding (UCSF). With hoarding comes a dangerous lifestyle. Homes become uninhabitable, rodents make nests, pathways become blocked, and our aging parent’s quality of life declines dramatically. Being charged with the task of taking care of aging parents who hoard is difficult and it is important to understand why it happens, the dangers associated with it, and how to deal with aging parents who hoard.
Why it happens
Hoarding can begin as early as a child’s adolescent years and either continue to grow throughout one’s life or stay dormant until later/middle age. As parents age, social interactions become less, and the quality of life can be lowered due to their health, and this can create a void in their lives which some attempt to fill with items; this is hoarding. These items may seem insignificant to you and me, but to them hold a sentimental value and cannot simply be thrown away. Their need to have these items and their inability to dispose of them can harshly impact their way of living and often leads to reclusiveness, depression, and anxiety.
Many homes of our aging parents become unsafe as a result of hoarding. Pathways in the home become blocked, creating a fire safety hazard. Hoarding may attract rodents, bugs, and can create an atmosphere that is prime for mold. All of these, aid in the lowering of the elderly’s quality of life and affects their overall health. Furthermore, hoarding can impair their hygiene by blocking paths to the bathrooms, and use spaces like sinks, tubs, and stoves as storage spaces which in turn leaves no place to bathe or cook. All these factors lower their quality of life and in many cases is very dangerous to their health.
What to do
If you have aging parents who hoard, it is imperative to seek professional help right away. Hoarding is not just a physical problem, it is a mental illness and must be treated accordingly. Contact your physician about psychiatric help. For cleanup, contacting a hoarding cleanup company is the most efficient and easiest way to begin rehabilitation. Just attempting to discard items in the home can harm your relationship with your parents, which is why a professional should be called. It is not easy for a hoarder to dispose of the many items they’ve accumulated, but with your care and understanding, a counselor and a cleanup company, cleaning up the home of your aging parents will be significantly easier.