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When an Aging Loved One Hoards

By Mary-Frances Walsh, 8:00 am on

Senior adults accumulate a variety of household possessions throughout their lifetime that may hold valuable memories. While it is okay to keep a few items with sentimental value, there can come a point when a person’s belongings take over their home. This excessive accumulation of belongings is more commonly known as hoarding and is becoming a more frequent problem among the senior population.

As a provider of senior care in Sonoma County, we wanted to talk about hoarding because of the dramatic impact it can have on an elder’s safety and health. If your aging loved one is showing signs of hoarding, here are some effective strategies for approaching the situation with sensitivity while helping them to regain control over their home environment.

Understand Their Reasoning

People often hoard for a variety of reasons, and understanding your loved one’s attachment to their possessions may help you to convince them that it is time to clear the clutter. For example, many seniors hold onto papers that they deem important out of the fear that they may need them later. Helping your loved one to scan them into digital files could provide them with peace of mind while eliminating the hazard of loose papers scattered around the house. Alternatively, a prized knickknack could be handed down to a younger family member as a piece of memorabilia.

Make it a Feel-Good Project

Senior adults play a valuable role in every community, and helping others can restore their sense of purpose. Try asking your aging loved one to donate some of their excess belongings to a good cause. For example, used clothing can be donated to a homeless shelter or a young family in the neighborhood might be able to use a new piece of furniture. Even odds and ends such as stacks of newspaper will be welcomed by teachers at schools and daycare centers. Be sure to start small with these projects and comment upon the rewarding feeling that accompanies each donation until your loved one makes it a regular event.

Emphasize Health and Safety

If your loved one still balks at the prospect of clearing out the clutter, then it may be necessary to explain your concerns regarding the safety of their home. Once you have stated that certain items must go, then you can encourage your loved one to maintain control by deciding upon where each item will go. Be sure to provide them with acceptable options such as a storage building or donation center. Then, stick to your plan and continue to keep watch for signs that clutter is taking over again so that you can help them to maintain their clutter-free home.

Utilizing the above strategies can help ensure that your loved one is living in a safe, clutter-free environment. For more information about senior safety at home, reach out to the Sonoma County live-in care experts at Home Care Assistance. Call 707-843-4368 – our friendly Care Managers are available 24/7.