My 90 yr old mother is hoarding. What does this mean?

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My 90 yr old mother is hoarding.

Everything goes into plastic bags. Her once clean home is filled with things in plastic bags. She can't find things and won't let me clean. I found several bars of soap underneath a pile of clothes. Pretty soon her bedroom will be to full to access her dresser. What does this mean?

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
It means the Great Depression of the 1930's is clearly etched in her mind. She would clearly remember the deprivation that was all around her. It is very common for the survivors to never throw anything away, every string and piece of paper, box or tool is saved. Nor will they throw away food or clothing. Broken appliances are saved. Everything is saved.
Look up hoarding and see what stage of hoarding it is. Watch some you tube videos on hoarding. When you decide how serious her problem is take some pictures and talk to her doctor.
From documentaries I have watched, they say hoarding is usually triggered by some emotional event. I saw it with my cousin after her mom died. She was only in her late 50's at the time. However, it was the early warning signs that something was not right with her and within the last 3 years, she progressed more and more into dementia. She now is in AL as she cannot live alone and needs lots of assisted with living.
It's part of dementia.. Also known as "squirrelling"..

I wouldn't call it hoarding..

Anxiety meds helped my Mom with his symptom.. She stills saves useless stuff but not so extreme..
MIL is 81. She's always saved sugar packets, ketchup packets, tea bags and so on from restaurants, as well as many of her children's toys ("the grandchildren might want them someday.") But lately she's stepped it up a notch by picking up used kleenex and things she finds lying in the street. She eventually throws the stuff away, but she won't stop doing it, even though it's unhygenic.
She also saves all her old bills, junk mail, receipts for appliances she no longer owns and other printed material, including stuff like the receipt for her h.s. class ring. She has quite a stash. When we tried to help her go through it, she got caught up in reading every piece of paper. She finally said she'd get rid of it "by sundown." (???) Of course she never did.

We have a huge job ahead of us when she finally goes into a nursing home or dies because she owns two large homes, one with a separate apartment filled with hundreds of books and assorted detritus.
Her mother was schizophrenic and MIL has an undiagnosed mental illness that makes her narcissistic and grandiose, plus now she has dementia. Fun times!

The hoarding makes dealing with her worse because she refuses to downsize to smaller quarters because she refuses to get rid of her "valuable heirlooms." She won't even consider giving them to her three sons, to whom they're supposed to go when she dies.

Hoarding is a serious problem anyway, and it just gets worse when dementia gets thrown into the mix.
livinghome,
My mother began to save things too, and when I tore out the damaged/cat urine on carpeting from a room and other useless old items, she would go behind me and bring it back inside the house. She was in the beginning stages of dementia at that time, and she would get violent sometimes too. I learned a lot from this experience...to not take anything personal that she said that would otherwise hurt. I knew it wasn't the "real" her speaking/acting out so I would just sneak things into my trunk when she would be sleeping and take it home to throw away. Finally, she went into a nursing home and that is when I was able to work on her home. Hope this helps.
CBS Sunday Morning 7/27/2014 just had a short on this. It's more than just saving and collecting, it's a mental disorder where you can't make a disposition on the object in other words you can't decide to throw away.

Dementia only compounds the problem. My mom isn't a hoarder by any means, but does the same thing, she can't throw away bills, tax records, letters etc. She doesn't understand that everything is electronic these days and she can "get a copy if she ever needs it". She saves ketchup packets, soy sauce packets, etc because "she might use it". Free pens, calculators, samples....saved. Can't give away clothes, shoes, coats she no longer wears or don't fit or are outdated.

Many times the objects or clothes hold special memory or represent a happy time that the senior is afraid to let go or that memory may also be lost.

It's said. When it interferes with their ability to live healthy or safely, then it needs to be dealt with.

This sounds like dementia not necessarily hoarding. Consider calmly offering to tackle the dresser one day with mom and helping her organize. If she is resistant, just tackle one bag at a time.

You won't fix this likely and once you leave she is liable to gather or undo the work you've done. They often rummage around in drawers and move things around constantly --which means misplacing and forgetting things. It's the dementia and cognitve impairment that comes with age. Sometimes a dr can prescribe something that can help alleviate the anxiety behavior.
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I just had an aha moment.... now I am beginning to understand why my parents [92 and 96] won't start downsizing, they were teenagers during the Great Depression, and like someone above said, everything is a memory for them.

Any time our regional hospital has the Ladies' Board Rummage Sale, I ask my Mom for donations because both my parents volunteered there for over 20 years. Mom will say "sure", then when I am ready to pick up the items, she has only one thing to donate.... guess I can say Mom is downsizing one knick knack at a time.... [sigh]

Dad wanted to donate several old heavy tube computer monitors, he was sure some school would want them.... sorry, Dad, that ship has sailed a few years back.
When I came to live with my parents the house was cluttered and unlivable. I got to live firsthand what people see on TV, though it wasn't so bad as many of the cases. Still, it was pretty bad. I think there are several reasons for hoarding. Some people have an obsession, perhaps brought on by trauma. These people tend to attach memories of self-identity to their objects. Others are just disorganized. They like to buy things without planning, then can't figure out what needs to stay. Other people are just lazy. It is much easier to throw something in an unused or lightly used room than it is to dispose of it. I would expect hoarding due to obsession or laziness to start earlier in life (or after trauma). If it comes on late in life, I would suspect it is due to loss of organization.

The trouble with trying to help someone regain some organization is that it can feel a lot like you're trying to take control from them. This brings in strong emotions. I remember my earliest days when I was trying to throw away 20-year old cans of vegetables. I tried to toss one can and you would have thought I was trying to take away a favorite child. I was threatened with the police. There were tears and more anger, all for a silly old can of vegetables. But the kitchen had to be cleared of the mountain of old food in the cabinets and piled up to the ceiling on the counters... and bursting out of the freezer and refrigerator. It was a mess. The good news is that after the first few cans, she let me clear everything else out that needed to go. No argument at all. Seeing space clearing was rewarding to all of us.

The problem with my parents was lack of organization. Mom would go to the store and buy food that wasn't needed. Dad would order shiny things from catalogs that came in the mail. Neither Mom nor Dad would throw away any paperwork. There were financial and medical records dating all the way back to the 1970s in boxes in the dining room. Roaches had a field day in the boxes. I wasn't able to shred them until after my father died. It would have been too traumatic for him.

My recommendation to anyone helping to clear a horde is to start in an area that is least personal and save personal areas, e.g. bedroom, for last. Expect the first few days to be filled with anxiety and anger. Be patient and give the option of donating or trashing if something needs to go. I didn't give my mother the option of keeping, because she would have kept everything, given that option.

Anyway... the house now is a lot more passable. Her bedroom and a room off of it (she calls it her big closet) are still hoarded, but I went as far down the road as she would allow. She is very territorial with her bedroom and "big closet," so I just leave them be.

It is actually kind of fun clearing a hoard. Seeing the space appear is so rewarding.
BTW, my mother now wants to donate EVERYTHING except her clothes. She even pushes me to take some nice things to the charity shop. She talks of how she is going to take everything out of drawers and just throw them away. I created a monster. :) Personally, I just wish she would clean her room.

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