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Tuesday, 05 December 2017 00:00

Managing Hoarding and Dementia

While collecting clutter is a common characteristic in someone with dementia, there are certain instances where holding onto possessions may cross the boundary into what is deemed hoarding behaviour.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients are not always fully aware of their daily actions and behaviour, especially in the later stages of these diseases. As such, keeping a watchful eye on collecting clutter and understanding the difference between hoarding behaviours is important.

In this blog we help you understand hoarding and dementia and how to manage this behaviour.

What is hoarding?

Hoarding is defined as behaviour where people excessively store and hold onto items which others may deem as worthless or not useful. People with hoarding tendencies struggle to part with what many may consider ordinary or completely insignificant items. This can lead to their living spaces becoming completely overrun by clutter and litter.

It is believed that hoarding behaviour can stem from childhood or adolescence. It’s an early coping mechanism to deal with loss of control in certain aspects of life or trauma. Hoarding behaviour then becomes progressively worse over the years that follow.

Hoarding and dementia

This disorder becomes even more challenging and complicated in those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Symptoms of dementia such as memory loss, confusion, agitation and disorientation only exacerbate hoarding behaviours.

Hoarding habits are likely to begin in the early to middle stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s. The behaviour is closely attributed to a loss of control. Developing hoarding behaviour is said to be an attempt at re-establishing control and security in the life of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

In the later stages of dementia, people may hoard or hide items from people they do not recognise (such as loved ones and friends), or are driven to search relentlessly for items they believe are misplaced or even stolen.

Managing hoarding behaviour

  • Try and remove only what is needed to ensure a care receiver’s safety, eliminating hazards from their everyday life.
  • Offer up a good reason why items need to be parted with: passing it along to charity, the church, friends or family members.
  • Learn to negotiate and use the tactic of ‘trading’ i.e. trade an old pile of magazines for 5 new ones etc.
  • Get creative – take photos of items which are being given away and make a compromise by allowing them to keep the photos of those items.
  • Remove rubbish bags full of discarded items off the property immediately. Don’t leave the opportunity for your loved one or patient to rummage through them at a later stage when you perhaps aren’t around.
  • If your care receiver agrees to help with the de-clutter process, take it slowly and sort through one box / pile / cupboard or drawer at a time.
  • Be prepared for negative reactions to parting with certain items. Make sure you have alternative support to help where needed – family, friends, a social worker.
  • Try and have activities planned to distract from the removal of larger items from the property or room.
  • Be patient and empathetic to their feelings. Allow your care receiver to part with certain items in their own time if needs be.

As a care giver it is important to stay alert to the reality of hoarding behaviours, but also remain empathetic. It is your job to help mitigate instances where hoarding could become out of control. Monitor spending, remove temptations such as home shopping channels or online shopping sites and identify and eliminate any potential hiding places.

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  • Weybridge,
    Surrey, United Kingdom
  • 01932 645 722
    0800 234 3448
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