Helping Someone Who Hoards
Do you think that someone you care for is compulsively hoarding? Is his or her situation becoming more and more difficult to manage? Are you worried?
Compulsive or pathological hoarding, officially called disposophobia, is more than just gathering or living with clutter. It’s an excessive gathering of objects, regardless of their value. The idea of giving away or throwing away any of the objects, even trash, causes great stress.
Hoarding causes several problems. Too many objects in a living space can cause problems with hygiene – both in the home and with personal hygiene if washing facilities are blocked. Extreme clutter can encourage social isolation, due to embarrassment about the state of the home and the inability to clean up well enough to go out. And the clutter also can be a safety hazard. Clutter can cause falls, destroy home foundations, and block exits in case of emergency.
Helping someone who hoards can be difficult. People who hoard place an overwhelming amount of value on their possessions, no matter how worthless they may seem to others. Clearing anything away is painful and too difficult.
If you have a loved one whom you feel is hoarding, there are a few tips that may help to get things under control:
Try not to be judgmental. It may not be easy, but if your loved one doesn’t feel judged, he or she may be more willing to work with you. Avoid declarations such as “What a mess!” or “How can you live like this?”
Use positive language. If you see any improvements, such as a path from one room to another that is wider than it was before, congratulate your loved one on trying to make things safer. If there’s a trash bag with trash to go out, let your loved one know that this is great progress. Whenever there is something to praise, do so: “I can only imagine how difficult it was to fill that trash bag. I’m so happy you were able to do that.” You can also highlight the nice things in the home, perhaps a beautiful painting, or an unusual decoration. Find something to praise.
Don’t argue. People who hoard have their reasons, and arguing usually results in them not wanting to listen at all. You don’t have to agree with what they say, but by arguing, they may feel they have to defend themselves, pushing themselves further away from a solution. If an argument seems inevitable, it may be time to take a walk around the block or call it a day.
Understand that some things are just too valuable for your loved one to part with. When clearing out a home, not everything has to go. We all have items that are dear to us. Recognize this and acknowledge it.
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