Hoarding and Seniors

Hoarding and Seniors

No one expects their parent, neighbor or friend is a hoarder.  Hoarding often starts by saving sentimental items, enjoying shopping whether at a garage sale or through a TV shopping channel.  Many older seniors went through the Depression and are afraid to throw out anything.  Others are lonely and/or have depression.  As a person ages, these tendencies intensify and become hazardous to their health and well-being.  A cluttered home can lead to the senior falling.  But it is also a fire hazard and a haven for insects, mold and other unsanitary conditions.  Bills and other important papers such as tax returns get lost.  And personal information is left in the open for every visitor and repair person to see.  What should you do?


The daughter of a client of mine who lives out of state called to say her father’s home was full of paper, magazines, catalogues and more, that he had missed paying some bills and she was concerned that other bills may be under stacks of paper.  It was time to take action – but what action?  Upon surveying the situation, we found stuff everywhere including a wall oven filled from top to bottom with papers.  Fortunately, the oven had not been used in years and his housekeeper and friends knew not to use it.  We were able to go through papers, set up a system that worked for him, file critical documents, find places for important memories from his 50 years as a business owner and make the living space easy to access from all other rooms and the outside.  We sent the daughter photos of the progress each week and how the home continued to look – giving him a key reason to continue the process.


To keep their loved-ones safe and secure, family and friends need to visit, not just ‘pick them up’ for lunch or dinner.  They need to see the inside of the home – all of the rooms.  They should look for signs such as:

  • Unopened boxes from stores, online or TV shopping
  • Stacks of catalogues, magazines, newspapers and articles
  • Boxes of broken sentimental items such as household items, small appliances, tools, guns, ammunition
  • Clothes not worn for a decade
  • Boxes or bags of bank statements, tax returns, other records


Talk with loved-ones about their belongings.  Photos and other paper memorabilia can be scanned into the computer or iPad so that they can look at them whenever they want to.  Talk with them about online accounts for their financial accounts and tell them you will be there once a week to help them pay bills, get ready for tax time, etc.  Talk about how their objects would contribute to the well-being of others, that local charities would appreciate their things: clothes for the needy, broken items to be repaired by workers are Goodwill, Habitat or other organizations.


Finally, hoarding may be a sign of memory loss.  If you feel that your loved-one’s memory may be a factor, make an appointment with their primary physician.  If memory is a problem there will be other issues to address to keep them safe and sound.


Keeping our seniors safe is of utmost importance, if you need help starting the conversation or the process we are here to help.