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Hoarding is a psychological condition affecting people of any age, but it often becomes more pronounced in senior citizens. As people age, they tend to accumulate possessions, and in some cases, this behavior transitions into a more severe and challenging condition. Understanding the common hoarding behaviors in senior citizens is vital in providing the right support, intervention, and compassionate care for those affected. Call for professional assistance if you or a loved one needs help with a hoarding cleanup in Ephrata, PA.

What is Hoarding?

Hoarding disorder is a psychological condition where a person needs to collect and hold onto objects. Hoarding is considered to be a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. If a person is to get rid of something, whether throwing it out, giving it away, or donating it, they experience intense distress. 

Regardless of whether the items are of value or not, a person with a hoarding disorder needs to keep everything. This disorder often leads to the home becoming cluttered with trash, which can cause significant psychological pain and interfere with physical and emotional health. Hoarding disorder can also negatively impact relationships with friends and family and interfere with a person’s overall functionality in life.

What Are the Signs? 

  • Excessive Acquisition of Items: One of the most apparent hoarding behaviors in seniors is the accumulation of items. These could range from newspapers, old clothes, and knick-knacks, to seemingly mundane or useless objects. Often, there is a persistent belief that these items may be of value in the future or that they hold sentimental value. 
  • Difficulty Discarding Possessions: Seniors dealing with hoarding behavior face immense difficulty in discarding items, regardless of their practicality or functionality. Often, throwing things away triggers immense anxiety and distress.

Why Is Hoarding Particularly Problematic for Senior Citizens?  

  • Cluttered & Unhealthy Living Spaces: Hoarding inevitably results in a cluttered living environment. The inability to move around the home becomes increasingly dangerous for seniors who have limited mobility, balance issues, or are at a high risk of falling. Hallways, rooms, and other essential living areas can become entirely inaccessible or unusable due to excessive clutter and fall hazards. Additionally, piles of items can harbor dust, mold, and pests, which may exacerbate pre-existing respiratory conditions or weakened immune systems.
  • Social Isolation: Hoarding tendencies in senior citizens may lead to social withdrawal. Feelings of embarrassment or shame about their clutter may cause seniors to avoid inviting friends or family over, leading to isolation and loneliness. 
  • Limited Support Network: Seniors generally have a more limited support network compared to younger individuals, especially if they live alone. This lack of support can make it more challenging to address hoarding behaviors and seek help in managing the condition. 
  • Decline in Physical & Mental Capabilities: With age, there might be a decline in physical and cognitive functioning. Seniors might find it increasingly difficult to manage their possessions or make decisions about what to keep or discard. 
  • Risk of Eviction or Housing Challenges: Hoarding behaviors in senior citizens can lead to conflicts with landlords or housing authorities, potentially resulting in eviction or difficulties in finding suitable housing. 
  • Medical Concerns: In severe cases, hoarding can impede access to medical care or emergency services, making it challenging for caregivers or medical professionals to reach or assist seniors in need.

Does Aging Affect Hoarding Behavior?

There have been cases where hoarding behavior has started or worsened in older adults. Some people may have had tendencies to hoard items, but things did not get out of hand for one reason or another. For example, when younger, a person with hoarding tendencies may not be able to afford to buy something, which can lead to a hoarded home. Or, a person was married to a spouse who helped keep the home clutter-free, and in the event of a spouse’s death or a divorce, a person with hoarding disorder begins to show worsening signs. 

Hoarding is often used as a coping mechanism, and many people who hoard items do it to remind them of their younger years. Additionally, some senior citizens collect excessive items because it gives them a sense of control. Collecting items may help a person navigate the psychological and physical effects of aging. Seniors may also feel comforted by their objects as a coping mechanism to deal with social isolation due to limited mobility or access to opportunities to gather with friends and family.

Do You Need Help with a Hoarding Cleanup?

Are you or a loved one needing assistance with an abundance of items that have taken over your life? If you are showing signs of hoarding, the experts at Pennsylvania Hoarding can help. We provide hoarding help in Bucks County, PA for senior citizens struggling with hoarding behaviors. Call us today to learn more and schedule an appointment with one of our hoarding experts.