Transitioning a parent to senior living is already difficult; but dealing with a parent who is a hoarder can really test a family’s sanity. Unfortunately, Diogenes Syndrome, also known as senile squalor syndrome, is more common than you might think.
From simple justifications to sentimental reasons, things can really add up when someone has a hoarding disorder. Aging can also bring on elderly hoarding and Diogenes Syndrome. Learn more from these tips on how to deal with elderly hoarding.
Many families are dealing with loved ones and parents who were hoarders. Sometimes, forms of frontal lobe impairment and dementia can bring on elderly hoarding, which is characterized by:
Hoarding disorder, formerly classified under obsessive compulsive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, now has its own designation. What stays the same is the criterion that the hoarder’s behavior either causes them significant distress or threatens their health or that of others — that it goes
beyond just being an avid collector and impairs everyday healthy functioning.
According to the American Geriatrics Society, living alone for long periods of time with a lack of cognitive stimulation, a genetic predisposition to the condition and a traumatic event can all be a catalyst for the syndrome. This is why senior living can sometimes trump living alone to keep seniors mentally engaged.
Jane Brogan has a mother who is a hoarder, as she describes in a recent article she wrote:
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“My mother wasn’t always a hoarder. In pictures from before I was born, I can see an almost sterile home. There is no clutter, there are wide open spaces. I was 3 years old when my mother developed an interest in antiques. Later that year, my oldest brother was killed in a car crash, and my family imploded. One brother left home, another enlisted in the Navy, another brother got involved with drugs. The youngest of the boys was in high school. My sisters were 11 and 9 when my brother died. But my mother’s way of dealing with her loss was to become an “antiques collector.” She was a child of the Depression, and the tendency to hold onto things hearkened back to a poor childhood. But, in reality, what she collected was mostly junk, that just kept increasing over time. Mom has Alzheimer’s now. She built a cocoon of belongings around her, and now the cocoon is around her mind… The den and cellar are wall-to ceiling junk.”
We all know that idiosyncrasies can be exacerbated with age. Hoarding is no different. In some instances, it’s already a problem, as in Brogan’s situation. In others, it’s purely a symptom of an individual’s own aging habits.
But regardless of how it starts, it can be a real problem when it’s time to move dad or mom into senior living.
Transitioning a loved one into senior housing is challenging. But having to clean through a hoarder’s personal belongings and deciding what to do with the house adds a whole new layer of difficulty to the situation.
A&E brings in an entire crew to clean up extreme hoarder’s messes; and you probably only have yourself or your family members to help sort through the collection of belongings left in a loved one’s house.
Whether it’s a case of accumulated memorabilia or an extreme case of Diogenes Syndrome, sorting through someone’s belongings is exhausting. Here are a few tips to help you get through elderly hoarding cleanup:
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Once you’ve done this in all rooms, hire a professional to:
This process could take a month or so, depending on whether you want to power through. Don’t get frustrated. Set goals and know that your mission will eventually get accomplished.
Do you have experience with elderly hoarding? Share your story or suggestions with how to deal with Diogenes Syndrome in the comments below.
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