By: Y. Feinerman, Family First Editorial Staff
Mom’s refrigerator contains expired products. Kitchen cabinets are lined with cereal boxes half opened or empty. It is impossible to enter her garage or basement. Her medicine cabinet contains prescriptions older than your kids. Decade old clothes prevent the closet doors from closing. My mom is a hoarder!
Every time you try to clean out her apartment, you are overwhelmed.
You continue to make promises to finish sorting through the junk! Have you started to move some of her things to your house?
Think about it.
Immediate action needs to be taken.
What is hoarding?
The official diagnosis for hoarding is Senile Squalor Syndrome, a consequence of Diogenes Syndrome. Self-neglect coupled with feelings of apathy and a lack of shame can lead to dangerous and unsanitary living conditions. Living alone, most hoarders refuse the help of others and feel apathetic and have a lack of shame regarding their current situation. Hoarding can be exacerbated by a stressful event in their lives, many times the death of a loved one.
“According to the DSM Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, hoarding afflicts more than 19 million Americans, roughly 6 percent of the population, and has been found to be genetic.”
Psychologists Dr. Randy Frost and Dr. Gail Steketee have studied hoarders for the past decade. They found that hoarders are people who compulsively acquire a lot of stuff, and trouble discarding their objects.
In their book, Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning they explain how compulsive behaviors can drive a sufferer to pile objects throughout their homes. Through various case they have identified key traits that identify a hoarder, detailing the underlying causes and explaining how to minimize the effects of the emotionally exhausting disorder.
Hoarders save everything!
They have difficulty parting with worthless items including broken appliances. They regularly purchase new things and won’t part with their items even when they have trouble moving freely around the room.
The researchers explained, in an interview with Fresh Air, that hoarders often don't realize the extent of their problems.
"There's a phenomenon we refer to as 'clutter blindness,' " Steketee explains. "And when we take pictures and show [hoarders] the pictures later, they often have the impression of shock. It's like somebody else's home that they're looking at in the photograph, because to them that's not what it looks like when they walk in the house.” - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126386317
Dangers of Hoarding and the Elderly
Often under-treated, hoarding has a greater impact on older people. Hoarders need help but are uncomfortable letting anyone into their homes.
Hoarding can prove to be dangerous, for the elderly, as a crowded house can lead to slips and falls, making it impossible to use equipment like walkers or wheelchairs.
One of the number one dangers is errors in medication which occur when the elderly are confused with their older hoarded medications.
How You Can Help
Visit your mom’s house regularly and keep check on the situation
If you suspect hoarding, be sure to approach the topic with sensitivity as opposed to judgment.
Refrain from using the words “junk” or “clutter” as your mom sees value in her objects.
Ask your mom, how she would like you to begin.
Remain neutral and positive.
Let go of your ideas of cleanliness
Work at Mom’s pace
Focus on fall prevention
Create pathways free of slippery rugs, loose cords, and debris
Focus on fire prevention. Check for newspapers stored on top or inside of a gas stove.
Make sure Mom has a working smoke alarm.
Enlist a cleaning crew.
Schedule a date
Work room by room. This method will help you notice your progress on day one.
Use a system. Go through each room and set aside a place for each of the following: Charitable and donations, keepsakes and valuables, and finally, trash.
Don’t Get Frustrated:
Cleanups could take a month or so, depending on your pace
Set realistic goals
Have confidence that your mission will eventually get accomplished.
What about all the Valuables?
Guess what? Nobody wants your mom’s prized tzatchkes.
We live more minimally today than the boomer generation, with less of an emotional connection to “things”. Today we are more mobile and have trouble dragging heavy stuff with them.
While your parents are still alive, begin the discussion on where they would like to see their valuables like china, crystal, flatware, jewelry, and artwork that have family heirloom connection.
Encourage your parents to share their stories
Those stories may prove to be more valuable than the items
Invite your siblings to come and collect
Bring in an Appraiser
Assess furniture, jewelry, china and books for their resale value.
Companies like Nova Liquidation, will come to your house, assess the valuables, make an assessment and write you a check for the entire lot. Within two days, they will take everything away including the trash.
Many times your massive clean-outs don’t last and the untreated behavior resumes and continues until it reaches another crisis point.
An organization that provides resources and education for both the hoarding individual and you, the caregiver is Institute for Challenging Disorganization. They can assist in improving organizational skills and connect you with professional organizers.
The goal is to keep mom independent and safe in her home while improving her safety and addressing her medical needs.
Home Health Care Options
Cleaning out your mom’s house is a good wake up call that your aging parents needs help.
Take the time to consult with a home health care registry. Professionally trained nurses can explain to you about various options of care available for your aging parent. Hiring a nurse or caregiver can ensure that your aging parents hoarding tendencies are monitored.
This coming Saturday, July 15, is National Give Something Away Day.
In the spirit of this holiday, together start cleaning out your mom’s refrigerator and pantry and donate usable items to a local food bank. Check out her closet, and together decide with gently worn clothing to donate to a local shelter.
Take pictures of your hard word and share them on social media with the hashtags #give something away day.
You can be an inspiration to others!
What successful tactics do you use to help your hoarding aging parents?
Y. Feinerman is the digital marketing manager for Family First Home Health Care. Yocheved is passionate about family and is known to be the "go to person" for family life cycle events and FUN!
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