How to Help Seniors Who Hoard
Hoarding is often a source of shame for seniors and their families, yet you don’t have to sit idly by and watch your aging loved one live in squalor. Whether your loved one has always hoarded or it’s a new symptom that accompanies the aging process, you can use the following tips to restore organization to his or her household.
Express Your Concern
The ideal way to handle difficult topics is by being honest yet kind. Let your loved one know you need to talk about something important, and hold your conversation during a time when you know he or she is receptive to hearing you out. As you talk, make sure to use positive language and stick to the facts. For instance, explaining how the trash piled up by the stove is a fire hazard will be better than exclaiming that your loved one is living in filth.
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Put Together A Plan
It may take several conversations before your loved one agrees to a cleanup, and it’s fine to wait for a short time if his or her living conditions don’t pose immediate danger. Having your loved one on your side makes the entire process easier, so it’s worth waiting until he or she is ready. However, you may need an authority figure to step in to hasten the process if your loved one is at risk for an injury or illness. Once you have an agreement, move forward by putting together a plan that includes a list of people to help and a room-by-room list of tasks to complete.
Set A Date For Cleaning Up The Home
As you put the plan together, pick a date in the near future when everyone in your family can help. Then, make sure your loved one is aware of the date so he or she has time to mentally prepare for the cleanup event. For instance, your loved one may want to set aside a box of essential documents that shouldn’t be thrown out, or he or she may choose to give away a few precious heirlooms to the family.
Provide Emotional Support
You should expect your loved one to experience some anxiety as the day for the cleanup draws nearer. Some older adults may be aware of how their hoarding is viewed and may feel embarrassed. Others may not feel shame but are upset at having their house and comfortable habits disrupted. Watch out for your loved one’s reactions and address negative feelings as they arise. Offering reassuring words or having someone sit with your loved one during the cleanup process may help him or her feel better as the plans are put into action.
Make Plans To Prevent Future Hoarding
Cleaning up a hoarder’s home is a monumental task, but it can quickly fall apart if no one steps in to stop it from happening again. Consider having someone visit your loved one’s home a few times a week to handle tasks such as taking out the trash and tossing out old papers. Then, provide your loved one with companionship that addresses the emotional reasons behind the hoarding.