If you have concerns that your parent may have an unhealthy hoarding condition, you are not alone. According to statistics, there are at least 154 million people worldwide who have a hoarding disorder, or about 2-6 percent of the population. It is very common in families as 84% of individuals with a hoarding disorder have another family member who also hoards. Finally, hoarding disorder is three times more likely to occur in the senior population – people who are between the ages of 55-94.
To clarify, hoarding isn’t simply having a lot of stuff. It usually involves several key components.
- The inability to get rid of any of the items your parent has procured, even if that item is expired, broken or unusable.
- An emotional attachment to items that causes extreme duress with the thought of losing the item.
- Impaired quality of life due to the excessive amount of items in the hoarders personal living space.
As a caregiver, you may have found you cannot care for the parent in the way you need to in order to keep your parent healthy and safe. Having caring individuals like their senior care provider or other family members assist in the care giving might be near impossible since entering the home is unsafe.
If you are looking for some advice on how to help your parent overcome her hoarding disorder, here are a few tips to get you started.
Plan a visit with your parent’s doctor.
The hoarding that your parent is displaying may be a symptom of something else occurring in her brain. If your senior care provider is still available, set up a time for her to bring your parent to her doctor to get a full evaluation of any other mental health or physical health issues that may be contributing to your parent’s hoarding. Since there is often denial of an issue, you should plan for yourself or another reliable adult to visit the doctor with your parent to ask the right questions and get the correct information on the next steps your parent should take. Your parent’s doctor may make suggestions for several other professionals for your parent to visit.
Consider having your parent get therapy with the help of senior care aides.
One of the suggestions your parent’s primary doctor may make is for your parent to start visiting a talk therapist regularly to discuss what’s going on when she hoards. Having your senior care provider ready to take your parent to and from these regular appointments will help ensure that she goes.
Gently encourage some decluttering.
Your parent most likely will not be able to declutter her entire home at first, but with patience and compassion, you may be able to help her make the first steps of cleaning out some parts of her home. Perhaps you can start with just one room (or one area of a room). Or there may be a specific set of items that seems easier to discard, especially items that are truly useless like garbage or ruined items. Remember that your parent even throwing away just one or two items is a victory and should be celebrated.
Helping your parent with this disorder might be a long process. Remember to get support for yourself as well so that you can give loving care to your parent and yourself.