Elderly parents are hoarding. Any advice? - AgingCare.com

Elderly parents are hoarding. Any advice?

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My wife and I are taking care of her elderly parents who live in an independent living apartment about 10 minutes away. They're pretty self sufficient but we're starting to notice a tendency to hoard, buying things they see on television, collecting junk mail, and other things in multitudes. Their apartment is so cluttered you can hardly walk through it and there's nowhere to sit. This concerns us alot and when we say something about it, we're quickly dismissed. There's a clear attachment to every single thing in the apartment. We're at a loss. The apartment was so cute and tidy when we first moved them in and it has progressively turned into a mess. They see no problem with the way they're living and are resistant to donating or throwing anything away, even junk mail. Not sure if we're looking at the onset of dementia or just old age tendencies, but the possession of "things" is getting out of hand. Nothing is in a logical place in this tiny one bedroom apartment. Just not sure what we can or should do. They have a cleaning service, so there's no filth, but it's impossible to clean effectively when the surfaces are all covered. Also worry about them tripping and falling. Would love some advice.

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I believe that my husband has not thrown away anything since the day he was born! I have found receipts and correspondence from the 1990's. I wait until he's out of the room, grab a bunch of papers, or a file and take them to my office. I quickly thumb through them and toss 99% of them into a garbage bag. When it's full, I tie it off and toss it into the garbage. He never misses them. The drawback to this is that it's a slow process, but relieves some of my stress at the clutter.
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My husband suffers from dementia, OCD and hoarding. It is important to remember that "things" represent a form of security to them. Something that doesn't make sense to us is so very important to them. They also develop strong emotional attachments to "things".

It didn't do any good to just get rid of things while my husband was away at work. He noticed the missing items immediate and then went into discomfort. He was hard to live with after I got rid of the old, oil soaked wooden shelves in our garage. I told him we would get new wood for new shelves, etc. Nothing consoled him.

Even now with dementia, I switched his truck key for a look-alike key and he noticed right away. He became inconsolable for days as he looked for the missing key. He couldn't rest. He paced endlessly.

This scenario repeated itself as he lost other things. He cannot rest until he has his "important" things. I don't know of any answer. I tried to reason with him and help him understand hoarding. No luck. I tried substituting "security" items. No luck.

The best help was Fluvoxamine that a psychiatrist prescribed. His hoarding subsided. To date, he only hoards 7 chapsticks, 5 metal flashlights, 12 handkerchiefs, 4 nail clippers, candy, 3 packages of cough drops in his shirt and pants pockets. I weighed the contents of his pockets and it weighs 8 lbs!

But do seek professional /psychiatric help for this little understood disorder. And read up on it. It sure helps to understand it. Your frustration level goes down just a bit. The very best to you and your loved ones.
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I don't know if this would work or not. Tell your parent(s) that the church or hospital is have a rummage sale [find some place that is holding one of these].... that the church/hospital needs wonderful things to donate, such as quality clothes, games, fake flowers, etc.

Knock on wood, my parents haven't started hoarding, but I still try to get my parents to downsize some of their stuff. All I can say when it comes to donations, with my Mom it is one knick knack per year :)
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I honestly don't know if you call it hoarding, but so much of what I'm reading here is familiar and very helpful, so thank you all. My in-laws keep styrofoam cups (cleaned after using), a drawer full of straws, twist ties, packets of sugar and salad dressings,and all of that kind of useless, but must have stuff. They also have three canes, three walkers, a motorized scooter in the middle of the floor, miracle cream for reducing wrinkles (lots of $30 tv miracle cream), bottles of medicine all over the apartment, not tucked away in one cabinet or drawer. There are clothes in the closet that haven't been worn since the 80's before my MIL retired, but she won't part with them. This is just the beginning. They live in a one bedroom apartment that we furnished beautifully for them. It's small, but perfect for them. They have a dining table with 4 chairs that you can't sit at because it's covered with useless junk. There's a nice leather recliner which he uses and an apartment sized couch, which only has one useful cushion now because the other cushion is covered with old newspapers. They insisted on buying a desk for a computer that doesn't work and a copier/fax machine that they never use. They don't even know how to use a computer. We bought it for them years ago, which was mistake #1. Add a television and multiple hearing assistance devices for the television and there's literally a 3X4 space in the floor for a person to sit, in addition to the desk chair. There are at least three telephones hooked up with cords running behind all of the furniture. Stuffed animals all over the bedroom. Why do people in their 80's need stuffed animals? When we moved them in, we brought one for them. Several months later, all of the others that were supposed to go in the estate sale, appeared in the apartment, in addition to boxes of other things that were meant for auction. Such as a bag of tile grout that they will never again need. We bought them a 4 foot tall artificial christmas tree to replace the 7.5 ft one that would not fit. We brought all of their decorations from home. Last week as I sit in the floor on our visit, my MIL said she'd like to have her 7.5 ft Christmas tree. I was in disbelief. Short of hoisting it up on a hook on the ceiling, where the heck did she think it was going to go? It's this kind of thing that I just don't know what to do with. I feel like every time we visit, we fuss, and all of our concerns fall on deaf ears. They aren't in any danger, and the apartment isn't dirty, but there are tripping hazards, and aside from all of that I'm just concerned about what it will look like in another month. My mother in law has always been so tidy and well put together and she just doesn't see the problem. Visiting is just not enjoyable anymore, and my father in law is an angry, angry old, possessive man...yet a topic for another post, I suppose. Thank you all for sharing your stories and ideas, we really do appreciate it.
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When it becomes a fire hazard or a public issue, the health department &, or the independent living association will evict them. You might gently face them with these possibilities, and then offer to help them clean up,
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With my mom, it's the creamers and plastic silverware they give her when they bring her lunch. I created a drawer in the fridge for it all and we (reduce) our inventory sometimes. Together we go through it and eventually I realized if the bin is full, she's happy so I "rotate the stock". (Throw out the oldest for the newest....) It's working but eventually I am afraid I will never be able to throw out unused plastic silverware and wet naps either! CRAZY...........
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hoarding must be a mental issue because it is sooooo horrrible!!! The mess and the filth that hoarders live in is horrendous!!
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There's a difference between keeping things and hoarding. One keeps things because they like them or don't know wh a t to do with them or they get lazy so they will think about it later. Hoarders need all their stuff. My mother is a hoarder. Before i brought her to my home she collected everything. She would have 20 clean empty tin cans in the closet, 25 clean yogurt containers, 12 meat trays all thi gs she needed. When asked what for she'd come up with a reason to use one, when i asked why do you need so many she would get mad. When i went And cleaned out things like years worth of the cotton balls they used to put in medicine bottles she nearly had a break down. It's a mental disorder. Now she is in , my home with only one room but she still collects things they're just smaller things like the twist ties from the bread bag, pencils and pens, tape, napkins, all things she needs. When the clutter gets too much we try to cut back with her making the decision that perhaps 10 twist ties are enough instead of 30. It's very difficult and if you let it get out of hand it is dangerous. With so much stuff they can fall or if so much is stacked up it can fall on them. Just know you need a lot of patience if it's really hoarding.
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They WILL trip and fall. They need help. Go with a social worker, for starters.
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Hoarding is commonly known as OCD, which is a form of mental illness.
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