How do I help my parent stop hoarding?


Q: Dad has a hoarding disorder. How can I convince him to quit collecting things and clean up?

A: Hoarding is a huge problem with many seniors. You might not be the best person to discuss this with your father. There are excellent professionals who do nothing but deal with this issue.

It's great that you are aware of the problem, because nothing good can come of this. There are health issues galore, not to mention safety issues. Seniors who hoard have a compulsion collect and save items. People who cannot bring themselves to get rid of their belongings are risking complications that can really wreak havoc on a family's life. These behaviors are usually discovered when emergency services are required. There may be a fire in the kitchen or a health emergency where first responders cannot get into the house or get a stretcher through the door.

Sometimes neighbors may report the unusual activity. In an apartment building, the hoard may be discovered when maintenance people cannot get into the dwelling for regular upkeep or repairs. I don't mean to scare you, but this situation can be incredibly dangerous. Even if a loved one clears their clutter, room is created for new and better things to be collected, and they may relapse.

It's important to establish a trusting relationship with the person. This is extremely difficult to deal with, especially if this person is your parent. There is a great deal of emotion attached to the problem. So often, family members try to solve this problem simply by cleaning out the house and throwing everything away. Although this is well intentioned, it is the worst thing that you can do. Professionals know exactly where and how to begin. There is a psychological reason why your father has begun to exhibit these unusual behaviors.

The truth is that you are not in a position to be able to diagnose what is wrong or why, and you cannot expect yourself to be able to effectively address and solve the problem. Hiring a specialist is going to be worth every penny and will undoubtedly save your dad from having something more serious happen to him like a fall or a fire.

Cindy Laverty is a Caregiver Coach and Founder of The Care Company, an online support website for family caregivers. Through programs, coaching and products, Cindy is dedicated to empowering family caregivers.

View full profile

You May Also Like

Free AgingCare Guides

Get the latest care advice and articles delivered to your inbox!


what do you do if you are hoarding and want to be free of all these things & have no one to help an no money to pay for help. IT seems to be closing in on me. Where is there help for people like me (78yrs old) been collecting since i lost my mother & husband
sktrtlemgtfkgds, My suggestion is to call Salvation Army and schedule a pick up from your porch or apt. That way you have a deadline to make a big pile of things to bless other people with who don't have as much as you. Because they are a charity, they actually need your help, and you will feel compelled to make the trip worth them coming out. Don't give trash though, that is their biggest expense.

I grew up in a hoard, and had no life skills for organization or cleaning (how do you learn to mop a floor if you can't see it?). Don Aslett's books helped me learn the actual process of cleaning (he's a janitorial guru!). And Fly Lady helps me keep a schedule of what to clean when, and how to organize my life. Maybe you could hunt up their websites?