Recognizing Early Signs of Hoarding

a bunch of books

The current generation of seniors typically didn’t move much. Many have lived in their same home for many decades. After you have lived in a home for a number of years, it is easy to find you have accumulated a lot of extra belongings. It may lead adult children to have a difficult time assessing if clutter has actually crossed the line into hoarding.

While it might be a difficult topic to tackle, it is an important one to address. Clutter and hoarding can put seniors at greater risk for falls or illnesses related to mold and mildew. Hoarding can also increase the odds for a fire in the home.

The Statistics on Hoarding

Researchers estimate that as much as 5% of the U.S. population could be considered a mild hoarder and as many as 15 million people could be full blown hoarders.  The problem with determining more exact numbers is drawing a line between what is considered clutter and what is really hoarding.

Recognizing the Early Signs of Hoarding in an Older Adult

A few of the warning signs that may indicate a senior loved one is becoming a hoarder are:

  • Piles of junk mailed saved in stacks on a dresser, desk or floor
  • Kitchen cabinets filled with empty food boxes or containers
  • Freezer or refrigerator full of expired foods they won’t throw away
  • Continually acquiring things they don’t need
  • Chairs that are becoming so full of old papers and magazines you can’t sit on them
  • Reluctance to allow visitors into the home

If more than one or two of these symptoms could be used to describe your aging loved one, they might have a problem that extends beyond clutter.

What Causes Hoarding in Seniors?

The first step in helping a Columbus area senior who may be hoarding is to understand the cause. Older adults are at risk for the behavior for a variety reasons. The most common ones include:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Depression
  • Fear of losing possessions attached to memories
  • Health problems including dementia
  • The need to be in control
  • Loneliness
  • Substance abuse

Your loved one’s family physician may be able to help you get to the bottom of what is causing this behavior.

Help for Hoarders

The followings resources may also be of help to adult children who are trying to cope with and manage a senior loved one’s hoarding: