Senior Hoarding – Game Plan
Recognizing its signs and developing a game plan to address it
We wanted to share with you an often confounding yet common situation when dealing with transitioning an elderly loved one from their home of many years into a senior care community, or perhaps your home or even settling their estate. We are specifically referring to senior hoarding. This is real and the condition is known as Diogenes syndrome, and it is more common than most people realize.
This is part of a continuing series of helpful articles from Joe Santoro and Nick Santoro of Personal Property Managers to assist you in home downsizing, content liquidation and full service discount real estate services. Personal Property Managers services clients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Our senior loved ones are certainly part of the ‘greatest generation’ for sure. They have sacrificed for our nation, fought our wars, defended our freedom, were hard working Americans who put in long hours at work, saved and accumulated things over their lifetime. Now, as their caregiver, you may be faced with dealing with the task of trying to clean-up or sort through what they have accumulated over their lifetime. In many cases, the mass accumulation of things turns out to be senior hoarding. We often find homes with 4 or 5 blenders, toasters, lawnmowers, ladders, boxes of things that have never been opened or things never used and the list goes on and on…
Times have changed. Items that were valuable years ago are no longer desirable. Family members often have no use or desire to bring Grandma’s things to their home. Change can be hard, and sorting through a lifetime accumulation of possessions can be overwhelming to a senior who is already struggling with a loss of independence and to family members who are stressed out.
It is perfectly normal for an individual who has lived for many years in one location to acquire a lot of stuff, and for some individuals, letting go of the things they no longer need can be extremely difficult. Experts say seniors are prone to cluttering for a variety of reasons, including fear of loss, anxiety, and depression. Research also suggests that pre-Alzheimer’s personalities may trigger hoarding behavior, further complicating the issue for those already pre-disposed to this obsessive habit.
For families dealing with loved ones and parents who have slipped into a pattern of hoarding, it can be difficult to develop strategies for the kind of downsizing that is necessary to accommodate a move to senior housing. The individual may be ashamed of their living conditions, and reluctant to accept the help they need. They also may be fearful of being forced to let go of the items to which they have become attached and resist their family’s attempts at getting the clutter under control.
Of course, securing the homeowner’s consent and cooperation is only half the battle. Once you have the go-ahead to begin sorting through the collection, it is important to have a strategy for completing the task at hand. Here are a few suggestions for getting through the cleanup:
Call a professional. At Personal Property Managers, we specialize in helping families take stock of what they have, what is valuable or not and how to declutter. Often, going through an entire household after years of accumulation is simply too much for one person to undertake. Far better to work as a team with a common goal.
Set a date to start the project. Block off a section of your calendar when you can truly focus on the task at hand. Determine how long you will work, and then stick to the plan. You may not make it through the process entirely, but knowing you have a starting time, and a plan to wrap up the day’s work at a specific time, can help keep you on track.
Do it in chunks. Work room by room. Although you may have an entire house to wade through, you will do your best work by focusing on one room at a time. Besides, any large project is easier to complete if you divide it into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Use a system. Focus on the most used items. As you go through each room, set aside a place for each of the following: donations, keepsakes, items to be organized and put away, and trash. At the end of each workday, take time to put away the items you have chosen to keep. Be selective. Remember that you are downsizing, so make your selections carefully. You may actually need to go through this process twice as it is often difficult to make emotional decisions the first pass through.
Think about digitizing boxes and boxes of photos and photo albums.
Have donations and trash picked up promptly to prevent second guessing your selections. The sooner you have temptation removed, the better.
Once the cleanup is complete, check in often to make sure that day-to-day clutter is not getting out of control. Staying on top of the problem is far easier than wading through a year’s worth of accumulation, and maintaining a tidy living space will relieve stress for you and your loved one, as well as make the home safer for its inhabitants.
The good news is that we can help clean-out your house, help downsize family’s homes and liquidate your contents for items that are saleable and in demand. We offer on-site estate sale services and can remove contents and sell them via our array of proprietary resources. With Personal Property Managers…one call does it all.