Hoarding is a complex psychological disorder that can present major challenges to families and professionals. Characterized by difficulty discarding possessions and excessive accumulation of items, hoarding at its extreme can pose a significant safety risk for seniors. Piles of newspapers, trash, boxes, clothing, and other items can interfere with mobility, pose a fire risk, harbor insects and vermin, and make it impossible for the individual to cook, bathe, or even sleep in his/her own bed. Hoarding may also involve animals, such as the accumulation of cats, dogs, and other pets that the individual cannot adequately care for.
The causes of hoarding are not fully understood. However, many people with this disorder also show signs of depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive behavior. Some have neuropsychological impairments such as brain injury or frontal lobe lesions. People who hoard are also more likely to experience an alcohol use disorder at some point in their lives.
Sometimes hoarding starts after the person has experienced trauma or a stressful life event, such as divorce or the death of a spouse. It is more common in older adults, and sometimes develops when a person has Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Many people who hoard are socially isolated, or become isolated from family members out of shame and embarrassment at the condition of their homes.
Individuals who hoard will often resist attempts by others to clean their homes or discard their possessions. Usually a thorough clean-up of the person’s house or a relocation will not resolve the underlying psychological disorder. In addition, relocation may not be an option if the individual is in public housing or otherwise lacks the financial resources to move.
In many cases, hoarding is a chronic condition. Intensive and long-term medical and psychological intervention may be necessary, particularly when the individual’s health and safety are at risk. Individual and group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have been shown to be effective in helping some people with a hoarding disorder, but changes may be moderate and slow. In Texas, other resources include Support Groups for people with OCD and hoarding disorder. The International OCD Foundation offers resources on hoarding, including state-by-state listings of therapists and treatment programs.
At arrangeCARE, we help clients, in the greater Austin, Texas, area, handle fraud or security issues. If you would like to discuss your family’s needs under no pressure, please contact us at info@arrangeCARE.com or 512-814-3228 and we’ll be happy to help you.