My Mother has become very irrational about hoarding just about everything she comes into contact with. She has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has built a cocoon of belongings around her, and now around her mind… The den and basement are literally wall-to-ceiling junk! I am concerned about this being a fire hazard, not to mention hygiene and the danger of her tripping or some of these piles of junk falling on her. She gets very agitated when we make any effort to sort through things and dispose of old papers, broken appliances, you name it! We have made the decision to transition her to a senior living facility but we must first deal with this. Can you help us with a plan?
—Struggling in Snellville
Yes, transitioning a parent to senior living is difficult, but dealing with a parent who hoards can really test a family’s sanity and resolve to do the best thing for your Mother. “Diogenes Syndrome”, also known as Senile Squalor Syndrome, is a very common issue among the elderly.
Some forms of frontal lobe impairment and dementia can bring on elderly hoarding which is characterized by:
Apathy Lack of Shame
Compulsive Hoarding Self-Neglect
Domestic squalor Social Withdrawal
While the TV show A&E brings a crew to clean up a hoarder’s mess, you probably have just yourself or family members to get this done. Yes, it is an exhausting process that can become an emotional roller-coaster as you find things of sentimental value. Don’t underestimate the chore. But plan it…
- Enlist a cleaning crew. Get reliable family members or friends who understand the importance of the task at hand and won’t get emotionally bogged down during the process.
- Find and set a date. Schedule a time when most are available…usually a Saturday morning.
- Work room by room. Forget about the 8 rooms that need to be done. Be methodical. Taking it one room at a time will make progress seem more noticeable and attainable.
- Use a system. Set aside a place for donations, keepsakes and valuables and trash.
- Hire professionals to clear the trash and have the house professionally cleaned. You earned it!
This could take a month or so. Avoid frustration. Set goals and know that you will reach the end!