As the years have gone by, Dad has accumulated lots of possessions. But if you’re noticing the amount of stuff he’s keeping is piling up, you may be worried that it’s becoming a problem.
Many seniors grew up during or with memories of the Great Depression, which can make it difficult for them to throw things away—thinking they may need the items one day. While collectors save items of a specific type, some people become excessively attached to a range of items that others view as worthless and cannot bear to part with them. Commonly called “hoarding,” this behavior becomes more apparent as a person ages.
Is Dad a hoarder or just a pack rat? If he shows these signs, he may have elderly hoarding disorder:
1. Can’t Function in His House
If Dad can’t move around his home without being affected by the clutter, he might have hoarding disorder. Hoarders sometimes struggle to make it to the bathroom on time because they have to weave through the clutter. Other signs include having to move things to open the front door and not being able to access some rooms because they are so full.
2. Can’t Let Go of Anything
Hoarders will pile stuff on the floor, counter tops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairways and anywhere else they can find. The piles sometimes reach to the ceiling and the only break is a path that winds through the stacks. If Dad can’t let go of anything—think magazines, recyclables and even garbage—that would normally be thrown away, it’s cause for concern.
3. Can’t Be Reasoned With
Every time you bring up Dad’s clutter, he makes excuses not to part with anything. If he can come up with a reason not to toss a plastic bag (or 80 of them), it’s a telltale sign he may be hoarding.
4. Can’t Take Care of Himself
Dad’s hygiene has declined because there’s clutter in his bathtub and bathroom. His nutrition has suffered because stuff is piled on his stove. You might also notice his hair has become matted, his nails are overgrown or he has body odor.
So, what should you do if Dad is showing these signs? It may be hard to confront him, but it’s necessary, especially if his clutter is affecting his health and safety:
Take Him to a Doctor
A lot of hoarders suffer from depression, especially if they have recently lost a loved one. They also might suffer from OCD, ADHD or an anxiety disorder. Medications can help with these disorders.
Take Him to Therapy
Talking through his hoarding behavior and the thought process behind it may help Dad significantly. He’ll learn to identify the beliefs that cause him to hoard and work on them with a trained professional. If he’s nervous about going, offer to accompany him.
Once Dad admits there’s a problem and gets help, he can begin the process of purging unnecessary items. Help him go through the stuff and decide what is trash and what he should keep. It can be helpful to hire a mental health worker or a professional organizer to assist with this process.
Another option may be a move to a senior living community where Dad can get the structure and socialization he needs to help him stay on track. Contact Life Care Services to learn more about the options available to you.