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There is no cure for a senior (citizen) who's a hoarder - is there?


creekland
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My dad is a hoarder and reduce his hoard significantly to keep my mom happy. My in-laws are hoarders but they have a designated place and space for their hoards. My MIL hoards handbags while my FIL hoards ewaste (electronics odds and ends).

 

I do have relatives who started "hoarding" because of dementia. They didn't realized they already have many of the same item so they keep buying the same thing if no one is with them to remind them.

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Not from the info I've read. (I'm not a professional, just have some interest in the subject as some extended family members may fit this profile.)

 

From what I've read in various things, it is often linked to disorders such as OCD or other ones. So, therapy to address the issues may be the best or most promising way to ensure lasting change. Maybe.

 

Cleaning out for them often doesn't work for various reasons, ranging from sending the person into severe emotional distress to causing them to 'dig in'/retaliate & hoard even more. Convincing them to do it is often fruitless as lasting change is a hard road to take, especially if it feels more forced/wanted from the outside.

 

ETA: Hoarding is listed as its own category, separate from OCD, in the DSM-5. Here's an overview (though I can't vouch for the veracity of the website). It does mention current testing of various pharmaceuticals as well as therapies as potential ways to treat the disorder.

Edited by Stacia
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Going through this now......I do think it CAN get better by way of insisting that the hoarding be organized.  Shelving, totes, etc in order to bring the hoard down to an organized mess. When you encounter 3-5 items of the same kind, SNEAK it down to 2 items of each kind.  You can keep the hoarder busy helping you sort through everything by giving them stacks of documents, photos, etc to sort to occupy them long enough to allow you to sneak things out.  The one I am helping right now doesn't even know WHAT all is there so it's been a lot easier to get rid of things without the person even noticing.

 

To get the process started, you can go with the insistence that Adult Protective Services and EMS require that there are clear exits and paths through the house big enough for a rolling stretcher to get through in the event of a health emergency.

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True hoarding has quite often fear of loss at its roots. Sometimes the hoarder has been deprived of essentials at some point in his/her life, sometimes it is just an irrational fear that all items could be needed sometime during an emergency, sometimes it's a general, unspecified fear.

This is usually not something that can be dealt with in a few hours or days. This is not my area of expertise but I have heard that therapists go through a painstaking processes of looking at every item with the hoarder. The hoarder recalls the memories attached to it and if s/he decides it should not be kept, says "good-bye."

Preceding this is usually an agreement that x amount of things have to go. Some people start with stipulating that we need to be able to walk from room to room, in other situations it is a pest control issue.

 

If it's true hoarding - the uncontrollable amassing of unnecessary items - I am sorry to say I have not heard of a quick solution.

Edited by Liz CA
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In my limited experience, age and the physical limitations that come with it only make it worse.

I do base that on second hand information, since I haven't gone there in years.  And I can't say for certain that "hoarding" is accurate in the way most people envision it, but it does seem to fit much of the criteria listed by people who specialize in it.

Dh tried to help years ago, with no real measurable improvement.  Authorities have been involved, tangentially.  Mental health professionals have been seen regularly, though they're not likely aware of the reality.

You can't turn on somebody's light bulb unless they want it turned on.  Even then, it can be hard to keep it on.

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My beloved uncle was a hoarder. Cleaning his house out after he died was really something. We had to hire someone because I live elsewhere, and we had to get his house on the market.

 

I would say in his case, it was definitely a fear of loss. He grew up in a poor immigrant family and had some elements of PTSD from Viet Nam. He never married, and always had trouble forming relationships with women. As charming as he was, saving things "in case" and buying junk made him feel more secure. He actually told me that several times.

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Not if they're still able to bring more in and don't see it as a problem.

 

I've got a relative who will be upset about the mess the house is in, but when you try to take anything out it's "No! No! I might need that!" Even a book that she didn't like is "But I might still want to reread it if I run out of books!"

 

sigh

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To all - realize my "liking" your post was meant in the manner that it was helpful and I appreciate your thoughts - not that I'm happy for your situation.

 

To get the process started, you can go with the insistence that Adult Protective Services and EMS require that there are clear exits and paths through the house big enough for a rolling stretcher to get through in the event of a health emergency.

 

This made me chuckle in a sad sort of way.  There's no way in the world... not even close.  We had to lift bags of groceries up and turn sideways and step over objects, etc.  (sigh)  Then we were only allowed to go so far.  I can only imagine what the kitchen looked like (where I expected to take the groceries).

 

I guess I'll just pray that nothing happens and dread the day I might have to clean out his place.

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:grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug:

 

It almost certainly won't just get better spontaneously.  As others have mentioned, this can frequently stem from a mental health issue tied to insecurities with fear of loss, a trauma from childhood or a host of other reasons.  It can also be extreme Executive Function issues.  Those things don't get fixed spontaneously.

 

If the person hoarding was genuinely wanting help and was willing to allow someone else to come in and cull down/clean out/organize then at that point they MIGHT be able to do less hoarding with a support system in place to help them, especially if they were also going to counseling for it and had someone checking in on them often to help them stay organized and assist them in analyzing whether something really is needed or not.  But they would need to be genuinely willing.

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my understanding it that this is related to  depression/anxiety.  hoarding supposedly helps a person to feel 'safe', or else they're avoiding dealing with things that need to be done.   some have responded to antidepressants, along with behavior modification therapy.

 

not fun -dh's grandparents were hoarders. things were stacked on furniture so you couldn't sit down - and there were "trails" between junk that was several feet high in many places.  his mother isn't quite as bad as her parents were. 

 

eta: I want to clarify - I differentiate between "collecting", and hoarding.  "collectors" can usually be reasoned with.  hoarders - not so much.  hoarding is usually not one specific kind of item, but lots of odds and ends and frequently without value.  my grandmother started hoarding as she mentally declined. e.g. in her retirement apartment - she was storing magazines (she never read) in her bathtub. and whenever someone died, she was happy to receive their clothes.  something that would have been unthinkable when she was cognitively "there".

 

 

Edited by gardenmom5
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It only became better here when the hoarder became physically unable to move the new items in and the enablers stopped enabling.

brings  back memories - my mil is positively spartan compared to her parents - and she's a hoarder.  her parents house was better (but still pretty bad) after she moved in with them.   

mil refused to do PT after a hip replacement - so she's in a wheelchair.  my sils motivated her to get moving by organizing her apartment.  when she complained, they told her when she could put it back the way she wanted it, she could have it that way.

 

mil now lives with sil and can't drive or go anywhere by herself. - and NO ONE  who can't handle her is allowed to take her to a store.  (she doesn't go online, or know about qvc)  and those of us who can, rarely if ever, do.  we'll get her the "stimulation" she wants in other ways.

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another thing that has helped is reaching social security age. The hoarder is no longer feeling urgent pressure to amass 'good deals' from yard sales that could be sold later. And the food hoarding has lessened since there is a regular govt check coming in...two fridges and a freezer are now enough....and meals on wheels is available to shut ins when the ability to walk past the front door is gone. All I can say is educate your older teens on what 'joint survivor option means'.

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I think it depends on how serious it is.  I have a friend who is a hoarder, and it was to the point of her kids not being able to sleep in their bedrooms anymore because of all of the boxes upon boxes of junk that had completely filled up not only their bedrooms but the hallway that led there.  I'm sure their home was a real fire hazard.  They were all sleeping on the floor of the living room, and the oldest child even built a shed outside to sleep in.  But, friends and neighbors began stepping in to help her take things out and sort through boxes and get rid of things, while encouraging her to contain her "storage" to an outside building  (they lived on a farm site).  It was a tremendous undertaking, but it seemed to give her a new way of looking at things and she was able to continue clearing things on her own after that and keep it way more controllable.  I know she still struggles but it's a LOT better than it was.

 

My MIL was a very mild hoarder, which only increased as she became elderly.  I'm pretty sure mild OCD and early dementia were behind it.  For example, when we were cleaning out her kitchen cupboards one day to have new cupboards installed, we probably found over 300 brand new sponges, still in their packages.  She also had giant boxes of jar lids, plastic milk jug covers, and empty toilet paper tubes, for example.  Just in case she might need them someday??  In her case it didn't get better, but, her children lived close by and were able to help her keep her hoarding to a minimum.

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My MIL is a hoarder of the type featured on the tv show. At one point about a decade ago i was really looking for a way to help and I read that there is better treatment and more likely recovery for drug adducts than hoarders.

 

We gave up. I haven't seen her house in I guess 13 years now and I can only imagine how much worse it has gotten. I sometimes lie awake at night worrying about what will happen when she gets sick or passes. It is a nightmare.

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My MIL is a severe hoarder.  There is no simple solution.  It is a mental illness.  The hoarder may have help to clean out, such as MIL did after her surgery (when I became aware of how bad it really is), about two years ago.  They may go along with the idea of therapy, and make an attempt to organize/clean up, but the follow through is the problem.  In my MIL's case, it's worse now than it was before there was any intervention.  The rest of the family ignores the situation, FIL caved at the threat of divorce (he no longer lives there), and I'm not willing to invest that kind of emotional effort ever again.  When she passes it will be a nightmare to settle, DH talks about just having the whole house demolished.  It's sad when you see conversations about that "awful house", and realize that it's your family member being discussed on Facebook. 

 

My DD shows the same tendencies.  I have to focus my effort on her, while I can have any impact.

Edited by melmichigan
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There is one helpful thing y'all.have reminded me of...the spouse was strong and did not allow the stuff to accumulate in certain areas. I can get the hoarder to abide by that, although it does cause distress - doesn't want to see the goods go, but has internalized the rules and does have the intention to have it gone before the reunification on the other side. So, not too bad to remove a garage worth at a time,especially if we show the mice have left evidence. Its easier now since we discovered that and do it with spring and fall cleanup.

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If the person hoarding was genuinely wanting help and was willing to allow someone else to come in and cull down/clean out/organize then at that point they MIGHT be able to do less hoarding with a support system in place to help them, especially if they were also going to counseling for it and had someone checking in on them often to help them stay organized and assist them in analyzing whether something really is needed or not.  But they would need to be genuinely willing.

 

There is no support system (we live multiple hours away), so even though he says he is wanting to change, from what I'm seeing on here and what I saw shopping with him yesterday, it's not going to change.

 

another thing that has helped is reaching social security age. 

 

Did not help here.  This guy has been this way for decades now - since my youth - and he qualified for ss over a decade ago.

 

My MIL is a hoarder of the type featured on the tv show. At one point about a decade ago i was really looking for a way to help and I read that there is better treatment and more likely recovery for drug adducts than hoarders.

 

We gave up. I haven't seen her house in I guess 13 years now and I can only imagine how much worse it has gotten. I sometimes lie awake at night worrying about what will happen when she gets sick or passes. It is a nightmare.

 

This.  This matches what I'm feeling coupled with what I'm reading.  I'm sorry about your MIL - and sorry so many of us have IRL examples.

 

My MIL is a severe hoarder.  There is no simple solution.  It is a mental illness.  The hoarder may have help to clean out, such as MIL did after her surgery (when I became aware of how bad it really is), about two years ago.  They may go along with the idea of therapy, and make an attempt to organize/clean up, but the follow through is the problem.  In my MIL's case, it's worse now than it was before there was any intervention.  The rest of the family ignores the situation, FIL caved at the threat of divorce (he no longer lives there), and I'm not willing to invest that kind of emotional effort ever again.  When she passes it will be a nightmare to settle, DH talks about just having the whole house demolished.  It's sad when you see conversations about that "awful house", and realize that it's your family member being discussing on Facebook. 

 

Ditto what I just wrote.  I was wondering if assisting a relocation - complete sale of properties (and contents) and downsizing into a condo in a completely different area would help.  He seemed open to the idea in theory.  I have no idea how to get him the assistance he would need to do it in reality, and now I'm suspecting the condo would get filled rapidly.

 

There is one helpful thing y'all.have reminded me of...the spouse was strong and did not allow the stuff to accumulate in certain areas. I can get the hoarder to abide by that, although it does cause distress - doesn't want to see the goods go, but has internalized the rules and does have the intention to have it gone before the reunification on the other side. So, not too bad to remove a garage worth at a time,especially if we show the mice have left evidence. Its easier now since we discovered that and do it with spring and fall cleanup.

 

He's driven off two spouses, but yes, it was better when they were around.  I doubt I can find him a third.  Now he just has six cats - all inside - and I doubt they care.  At least they are hopefully keeping the rodent population down. (sigh)

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Well.... When my mom's dementia was developing, even many months/a couple years before it was diagnosed in it's still early stages . . . she started having a LOT of trouble with "stuff". I later realized this was because her executive function -- the ability to make decisions -- was failing, but none of us knew that at the time. 

 

I see that this may not apply well to your situation, but if any of this is helpful to you or others, here it is. :) 

 

So, anyway, for a couple years, her "stuff" accumulated rather badly -- not hoarder level, but major clutter and wasteful shopping. 

 

I COULD NOT get her to make progress herself w/o total trauma, and progress was minimal at best if she was involved. 

 

First piece of painful advice: LIE. Sorry, but it's a reality. Truth is not always your friend. Lie when you have to, and live with the guilt. Your guilt is less important than the suffering person's PAIN. Suck it up. Be that asshole who manipulates and lies. Get over it. Trust me on this. It is MUCH MORE LOVING to lie than to fight or shame. 

 

Eventually, . . .

 

+ When I was visiting for the weekend (about once a month or so the last year or two she lived alone), after she went to sleep at night, or if I were alone for a bit during the day, I'd stealthily declutter stuff. My main priorities early on were health/safety, so I would go through her freezer/fridge and cupboards, and simply throw away expiring items, things that had been open too long, etc. I'd fill up a garbage bag or two each night, and take them straight to the trash chute (she lived in a condo), so she wouldn't see any evidence of what I'd done. SHE NEVER NOTICED. NOT ONCE.

 

+ A few times, I convinced her to let me help her collect items for donation -- paring down clothing, books, etc. This was much easier if she knew someone would use the items. We fudged this just a bit at times, for things like magazines. You can make up stories about a homeless shelter or kindergarten class needing old magazines/catalogs for craft projects. Load them into your car. . . Where they go after that is up to you.

 

+ The most shocking thing happened close to the end of her independent life . . . I had long ago helped her organize filing chaos in her home office, and I had long had her using a helper to pay her bills and file monthly, but she'd heroically held onto her independence in her desk/papers/filing stuff . . . Never wanting me to mess with her papers (no secrets, just not wanting me to mess things up)  . . . But, finally, it got too critical, and I had to locate & secure important papers and to do that, I had to truly de-clutter her crazy desk / home office. One night, while she was asleep, I just dug in and 100% decluttered everything. Shredded acres of papers and threw away acres of junk mail / crap / crap. Her chaotic desk was a sparkling island of calm by morning. Everything was filed or gone. I was prepared for hell on wheels when Mom went in . . . as she'd previously and repeatedly FREAKED at the very thought of me messing with that stuff, and in the past, getting her to get rid of 1% of her papers would take me hours and hours of negotiation with her . . . leaving me ready to put my head in the oven. Lo and behold, MOM DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE. Never! Not one word! Peace, calm, and we were BOTH so much happier. :) 

 

+ When it was time to move her out of her condo, after a few days with her "help" . . . I sent her home (to my house) with a caregiver and I did the major purging and packing supervision MYSELF. She never noticed what didn't get unpacked in her new digs. 

 

So, anyway, my 2c is that if the "hoarding" is a relatively new behavior in a senior, it's highly likely to be related to dementia, and, IME, that is NOT something you can successfully negotiate your way through. Sneak, lie, and HELP, and with a little luck, they won't notice -- as long as they can't see what you do.

 

Oh, also, the shopping/buying becomes a big problem with decline in executive function as well. Essentially, she'd see, and she'd buy WHATEVER. If this isn't a $$ problem, then it's hard to stop . . . But, it can easily be a major money problem and/or clutter/hoard problem, so you have to contain the spending as well . . . For me, that meant supervision when shopping . . . and/or avoiding anywhere that stuff is sold. 

 

 

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I do not think there is an easy answer. I will share our experience. And OP, I am genuinely sorry that your family is facing this. It is a long, hard, and painful road.

 

My dh's gma is a hoarder. When my mil didn't hear from her for two days she went over to check on her. She had fallen and couldn't get up. My mil had never been allowed past the door. It was heart breaking. Climbing over mountains of trash to get to the "bedroom". There is zero chance that EMT's could have entered the house. Gma was hospitalized. It was decided then by my mil and dh that gma was not going back home. They took away the keys. After the hospital stay she recovered at my mil's house. She was moved, against her will, into assisted living. She will tell you that we've put her in prison. She is still very angry at all of us. (Though, she wasn't a "nice" person prior, so it's this wasn't a surprise). Dh has filled three LARGE dumpsters with trash. We haven't sorted out anything of value-yet. That was just trash. (Eta: we are far from finished. This was only from the entry way, bathroom and kitchen. And don't think those areas are clean. We've a LONG way to go.)

The bathroom was non functional, neither was the kitchen. There were no working appliances in the house (not that you could even access them). The kitchen was filled with take out trash and the bathroom filled (floor to ceiling, wall to wall) with bottles of urine, adult diapers and the like. She maintained a membership to the local gym. That's where she was taking her showers.

It is sad. It is heart breaking. The farther we make it into the house, the worse it seems. We knew it was bad-but we didn't know how bad. There is structural damage to the house that is slowly being uncovered. Rodents and insects are everywhere. It's bad.

We are rural, there are no qualified psychologists near that can handle this. They've "helped" but not really-though I don't know if having someone trained in helping with hoarding would actually make a difference. Gma "knows" it isn't ok. She "wants" help. She "wants" her house to be clean. But it isn't that easy. These are long engrained habits. Already we are seeing signs of hoarding in her new apartment. It's little things like a cabinet full of empty water bottles.

After moving her out, we've noticed a couple things: Now that she has help-she looks healthier. She is eating better, she is regularly getting her medication, she is taking regular showers and clothes are staying laundered. She is able to sleep in a clean, comfortable bed. Exercise is easier-because she actually has a floor to walk on. We are okay with her not liking us-this is the better choice. However, my mil struggles with other peoples opinions of her.People who don't know the whole story and only her that we took away the keys and locked gma up in "prison". That's difficult. It would be easier if the favorite son, who lives far away would back my mil. But he doesn't seem to care.

It's hard. Hoarding is hard. It's a disease. I'm sorry you have to face this. Do what you can for the health and safety of your family member

Edited by athomeontheprairie
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What worked for my in-laws--

Moving them to a small apartment in an assisted living facility, and then starting the clean up of the old house. They could still hoard in their apartment, but it wasn't as much of a problem since the apartment was small and could only hold so much.

 

Once (before they had moved out of their house) we cleaned out their garage so that it looked beautiful, although there were plenty of hard feelings over old newspapers we had put in the recycling. A couple of years later, the garage was almost as full from reaccumulation. So I think you must wait until the person moves out permanently to truly begin the cleanup or else you may just be wasting your time.

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A quick reminder that my "likes" are for folks sharing information so I can glean from it - not due to being the least bit glad you've had those situations.

 

I'm beginning to wish my hoarder had a touch of dementia.  It would be helpful if he didn't remember what he had or where he put it, but he notices when anything is missing.  Other mental issues have him assuming anything he can't find has been stolen by friends/family or folks "out to get him."

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 So I think you must wait until the person moves out permanently to truly begin the cleanup or else you may just be wasting your time.

 

Maybe I can hunt down potential moving options as an enticement - if any are affordable for him.  That could be worth a try.

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My brother is a hoarder and has been for decades.  When I last saw his apartment, the kitchen was okay as was the bathroom but the living and dining rooms were small pathways to get through.  I think I may have been there is 2003 or maybe it was late 90s but whenever it was, I am sure it is still awful.  He has newspapers and magazines piled up quite high.  He is OCD too though I suspect he may be on the spectrum.   I just hope that neither I nor my dh are the executors of his estate if he dies before me.  Since he is living in an apartment, we wouldn't have the same luxury as some of you with parents or grandparents who live in their own homes,

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People talking about reasons for hoarding: 

 

My parents hoarded. 

My in-laws did not.

 

All were depression era children.

 - My parents were the only surviving relatives for several elderly relations, and feeling as though they needed to show respect or be the keepers of a legacy, they kept all the stuff.

 - They kept stuff "in case it might be needed" because they lived overseas for 20 years in an era in which there was no DHL, UPS, or FedEx. You just didn't throw stuff away.

 - My parents were both from families of lesser economic ability; my in-laws were not.

 

All those factors contributed to the hoarding, and it had nothing to do with a mental illness. In their case, it was long-ingrained habit and a coping strategy gone awry.

 

Yeesh....what a nightmare to clean out their house.  The most courageous thing I ever saw my mother do was to literally walk away from it all and let us kids take care of it, without interference, when they moved in with my brother. She was still able-bodied and sound of mind but was not able to take care of dad by herself.

 

And yes, shopping for the thrill of the hunt continued after they moved.  But it was marginally manageable because she had so much else to do when her life was full of grandkids.

 

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The Native Canadians have a great method of preventing hoarding - they have "give-aways" or potlatches at regular intervals. It's a wonderful way to share their wealth among their community and prevent getting too much material possessions accumulating in one place. 

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giveaways are what help my hoarder accumulate. its insurance against poverty...that old magazine or glass bottle orr sewimg machine could be a collectors item you know.

 

Ours has not been able to walk away. the children have offered a home in a retirement condo community, but the idea of paying a monthly fee is out of the question...seniors here voted themselves a fifty percent tax decrease so they could stay in their homes and they have no interest in paying more to live in a smaller place even if it has pathways to walk and maintenance.

 

The other thing is the garbage. Ours doesn't have the strength to move the cans into position for curbside pick up and there are no neighbor teens to hire. So, not much can leave.

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The Native Canadians have a great method of preventing hoarding - they have "give-aways" or potlatches at regular intervals. It's a wonderful way to share their wealth among their community and prevent getting too much material possessions accumulating in one place.

Though it seems this could backfire for a person who was inclined towards hoarding--they could go to the events to pick stuff up!

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I don't think so.  Thing is, in packing up my very elderly Mom and MIL, I have a certain amount of sympathy for them.  All they have left of their past life is the stuff around them.  This item reminds them of their lovely time with their dh in Scotland, that one reminds them of their mother, dead and gone 40 years, those things remind them of the friends they played bridge with for 50 years.  

 

And some of the rest of it is that they *can't* just "go out and get another one if they find they need one later"--they can't drive, they know how to work *this* blender, they really DO intend to make pickles again ... someday.  

 

So as crabby as my post is in the other related thread, I understand it a little better having just been intensely involved with trying to get them to de-clutter in the past couple of months.  As I don't have the associations with that particular stufff, I look around my own room, and I see similar things that I am positive my son smirks at.  ;-)

 

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Though it seems this could backfire for a person who was inclined towards hoarding--they could go to the events to pick stuff up!

 

My hoarder would do this.  He goes to store clearance sales and clears them out.  I think the stores should pay him.  I'm sure they love him.

 

I don't think so.  Thing is, in packing up my very elderly Mom and MIL, I have a certain amount of sympathy for them.  All they have left of their past life is the stuff around them.  This item reminds them of their lovely time with their dh in Scotland, that one reminds them of their mother, dead and gone 40 years, those things remind them of the friends they played bridge with for 50 years.  

 

And some of the rest of it is that they *can't* just "go out and get another one if they find they need one later"--they can't drive, they know how to work *this* blender, they really DO intend to make pickles again ... someday.  

 

So as crabby as my post is in the other related thread, I understand it a little better having just been intensely involved with trying to get them to de-clutter in the past couple of months.  As I don't have the associations with that particular stufff, I look around my own room, and I see similar things that I am positive my son smirks at.  ;-)

 

I can see this with mementos and I wouldn't really want him to throw those out.  That can be done afterward.  I have a much tougher time seeing it with plain ole trash (broken basic items, outdated regular newspapers, etc) or with the multiples of things he keeps buying - new stuff.

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My hoarder would do this.  He goes to store clearance sales and clears them out.  I think the stores should pay him.  I'm sure they love him.

 

 

I can see this with mementos and I wouldn't really want him to throw those out.  That can be done afterward.  I have a much tougher time seeing it with plain ole trash (broken basic items, outdated regular newspapers, etc) or with the multiples of things he keeps buying - new stuff.

 

Oh, that's a completely different thing. 

 

Also, the thing is, I get my mom's loving her china as a memento....but keep A PLACE SETTING.  Not 12.  KWIM?

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Well.... When my mom's dementia was developing, even many months/a couple years before it was diagnosed in it's still early stages . . . she started having a LOT of trouble with "stuff". I later realized this was because her executive function -- the ability to make decisions -- was failing, but none of us knew that at the time.

 

I see that this may not apply well to your situation, but if any of this is helpful to you or others, here it is. :)

 

So, anyway, for a couple years, her "stuff" accumulated rather badly -- not hoarder level, but major clutter and wasteful shopping.

 

I COULD NOT get her to make progress herself w/o total trauma, and progress was minimal at best if she was involved.

 

First piece of painful advice: LIE. Sorry, but it's a reality. Truth is not always your friend. Lie when you have to, and live with the guilt. Your guilt is less important than the suffering person's PAIN. Suck it up. Be that asshole who manipulates and lies. Get over it. Trust me on this. It is MUCH MORE LOVING to lie than to fight or shame.

 

Eventually, . . .

 

+ When I was visiting for the weekend (about once a month or so the last year or two she lived alone), after she went to sleep at night, or if I were alone for a bit during the day, I'd stealthily declutter stuff. My main priorities early on were health/safety, so I would go through her freezer/fridge and cupboards, and simply throw away expiring items, things that had been open too long, etc. I'd fill up a garbage bag or two each night, and take them straight to the trash chute (she lived in a condo), so she wouldn't see any evidence of what I'd done. SHE NEVER NOTICED. NOT ONCE.

 

+ A few times, I convinced her to let me help her collect items for donation -- paring down clothing, books, etc. This was much easier if she knew someone would use the items. We fudged this just a bit at times, for things like magazines. You can make up stories about a homeless shelter or kindergarten class needing old magazines/catalogs for craft projects. Load them into your car. . . Where they go after that is up to you.

 

+ The most shocking thing happened close to the end of her independent life . . . I had long ago helped her organize filing chaos in her home office, and I had long had her using a helper to pay her bills and file monthly, but she'd heroically held onto her independence in her desk/papers/filing stuff . . . Never wanting me to mess with her papers (no secrets, just not wanting me to mess things up) . . . But, finally, it got too critical, and I had to locate & secure important papers and to do that, I had to truly de-clutter her crazy desk / home office. One night, while she was asleep, I just dug in and 100% decluttered everything. Shredded acres of papers and threw away acres of junk mail / crap / crap. Her chaotic desk was a sparkling island of calm by morning. Everything was filed or gone. I was prepared for hell on wheels when Mom went in . . . as she'd previously and repeatedly FREAKED at the very thought of me messing with that stuff, and in the past, getting her to get rid of 1% of her papers would take me hours and hours of negotiation with her . . . leaving me ready to put my head in the oven. Lo and behold, MOM DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE. Never! Not one word! Peace, calm, and we were BOTH so much happier. :)

 

+ When it was time to move her out of her condo, after a few days with her "help" . . . I sent her home (to my house) with a caregiver and I did the major purging and packing supervision MYSELF. She never noticed what didn't get unpacked in her new digs.

 

So, anyway, my 2c is that if the "hoarding" is a relatively new behavior in a senior, it's highly likely to be related to dementia, and, IME, that is NOT something you can successfully negotiate your way through. Sneak, lie, and HELP, and with a little luck, they won't notice -- as long as they can't see what you do.

 

Oh, also, the shopping/buying becomes a big problem with decline in executive function as well. Essentially, she'd see, and she'd buy WHATEVER. If this isn't a $$ problem, then it's hard to stop . . . But, it can easily be a major money problem and/or clutter/hoard problem, so you have to contain the spending as well . . . For me, that meant supervision when shopping . . . and/or avoiding anywhere that stuff is sold.

Just to reiterate that last bit - on the spending - yes! Be careful! Even a non driving senior can rack up a ton of debt via magazine subscriptions, cosmetic/health products, all sorts of stuff via telephone and mail order. Many of these initial purchases are based on auto-subscription/renewal that are beyond the ability of a cognitively impaired person to cancel or return. Credit card bills can very quickly escalate, even if a person cannot go "out shopping" and doesn't have access to a computer for online purchases. Direct mail and daytime TV ads target market to the homebound elder. Not sure if that would be what you see, creekland, I just wanted to throw that out for the others reading who are dealing with elders. It's really hard to assist an elderly family member when they have messed up their financial situation to the point of being in deep debt.

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On a lighter note, have you seen the movie "Doris" with Sally Fields as an elderly hoarder? Her family make her see a counselor and she throws a screaming fit the first time they try to take anything out of the house. But she grows into letting go.

 

My mom was an executive secretary. When she moved into assisted living, we furnished 3 houses with her accumulation of office supplies--collected after their last major crosos-country move. My brother in law says, to this day, "The best thing you can do for your kids is get rid of your OWN stuff."

 

Speaking of potlatches, after my dad passed my mom invited all his friends to come to the house and take a book or 10. It was a great way to pass on his legacy, which he'd  not had the cognitive facility to enjoy for many years. We did the same thing with my mom's bird sculptures collection.

 

I will note that since I have one brother who lives overseas and who came back to the states for 6-8 mo every few years, she still had boxes and boxes of *his* stuff that had moved cross country with them several times. So not all of the junk was hers.

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Just to reiterate that last bit - on the spending - yes! Be careful! Even a non driving senior can rack up a ton of debt via magazine subscriptions, cosmetic/health products, all sorts of stuff via telephone and mail order. Many of these initial purchases are based on auto-subscription/renewal that are beyond the ability of a cognitively impaired person to cancel or return. Credit card bills can very quickly escalate, even if a person cannot go "out shopping" and doesn't have access to a computer for online purchases. Direct mail and daytime TV ads target market to the homebound elder. Not sure if that would be what you see, creekland, I just wanted to throw that out for the others reading who are dealing with elders. It's really hard to assist an elderly family member when they have messed up their financial situation to the point of being in deep debt.

 

I have no idea what the debt/financial situation is like, but he tells me it's "fine."  I hope so.

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I'm only mid-50s, and this is me:  "This item reminds them of their lovely time with their dh in Scotland, that one reminds them of their mother, dead and gone 40 years, those things remind them of the friends they played bridge with for 50 years."

 

Sigh...still trying to find out what will be nearly as fulfilling as homeschooling was.  Based on the family history, I may have another 35-40 years.

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My in-laws aren't seniors yet but they are hoarders. They have one giant house and two barns crammed pack full of stuff. Quite a few rooms in their house they have little pathways. They are wealthy but keep lots of stuff "just in case" and because they might use it some day. They are ingenious at using stuff as my FIL is a contractor but so much of their stuff is complete trash- like rusty nails, or a half broken toilet, or essential oils that expired ten years ago. Tons of stuff is just left to get rained on and broken. A few years ago when we lived next door, I tried to help them sort out their stuff. It took two months to go through two areas of their house and another two months for tiny area of one of their barns. They sorted into piles and then left them there. Slowly, their trash and giveaway piles got slowly accumulated back into their house and barn. Because we lived next door they even went through our trash sometimes. Sigh...the six or so months I tried to help them availed to nothing and we didn't touch most of their house and barns.

 

On the bright side, my husband and children cannot stand messiness now after living by them so that makes life much nicer for me.

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On the bright side, my husband and children cannot stand messiness now after living by them so that makes life much nicer for me.

 

On the bright side, comparatively our house always looks clean, so if I don't feel like cleaning, I can mentally compare and be ok with putting it off for a little bit!

 

I told my boys not to worry about their dorm rooms looking messy either.  ;)

 

In reality, as soon as we get home I'm going to tackle that "one room" in our house that we never go into.  It has become a "toss it in there" room.  We keep the door shut.  Whenever I open it I get bothered by it, but couldn't put my finger on why.  Now I know why.  It's too much of a reminder.  Things that were tossed in there are about to get a real place to live in our house or get tossed out!

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Very unlikely. It is closely tied to OCD behavior. It usually has deep psychological roots in issues like security and fear of lack. I would think it would also be hard to be a little bit less hoarderish, because half the problem is (frequently) an inability to prioritize. So, a hoarder cannot easily "see" that this coat is the best of this pile of twelve coats and if this coat is the one always worn, the other eleven ate unnecessary.

 

When I visit my parents' house, I come home and throw a bunch of stuff away. Their house is so cluttered, it gives me anxiety and I have to eradicate some junk as therapy!

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I just wanted to add, accummulating things is a bigger problem for creative people because they see many possibilities in all things and don't want to waste it. This is a large part of why my mother gathers stuff - because this could be a nightlight! Or a candleholder! Or a jewelry jar! Or a popcorn canister! She is very creative and inventive and so she buys yardsale and thrift stuff and adds it to her piles. Sometimes, I get the pile because I am pretty good at crafts and upcycling things so she's doing me the (dubious) favor of sourcing materials for me. :/

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