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Is your parent a hoarder?

Symptoms and how to help

Friday, December 13th, 2013
Issue 50, Volume 17.

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – Hoarding, like many other mental health disorders, has a number of alarming symptoms. Compulsive hoarding previously was thought to be a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Although the hoarder does display some symptoms of OCD, recent studies have found that only 20 percent of hoarders are also diagnosed with OCD. However, about half of all hoarders do suffer from depression.

Hoarding is a gradual process

A hoarder doesn’t just wake up one day and start packing everything away. The process gradually increases until the "collections" consume the hoarder. As an adult, it is common to worry about your parents aging and living alone, but as a child of a hoarder, your concern goes well beyond the "usual" worries. Many hoarders live in homes that are unsanitary, unhealthy and dangerous. However, some hoarders are secretive about the items they hoard, and the signs may not be as obvious as expected.

Signs and symptoms of hoarding

There are a variety of signs and symptoms that may alert you to the fact that your mother or father has a compulsive hoarding problem. It is important to keep in mind that although your parent is a hoarder, they may still have an area of the home that is kept presentable for when company arrives. Compulsive hoarding can affect your parents’ emotions and thoughts as well as their behavior. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of a hoarder include:

• One or more cluttered living spaces

• Refusing to get rid of magazines, newspapers and mail

• Unable to discard items

• Difficulty making decisions, managing activities and procrastination

• Social interactions are extremely limited

• Becomes emotional and/or uncomfortable when others ask to borrow their possessions or if someone else touches their possessions

• If you are not permitted to enter one area of the home

• Your parent is behind on their bills

• The parent asks to borrow money, but cannot explain what the money is Advertisement
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Should you offer to clean?

As a hoarder, your parent may be living in an environment that puts his or her safety at risk. As their child it is common to want to help them live in a clean, safe environment. However, regardless of how unsanitary or unsafe the home is, it is important to not think that the solution is to simply go to their home and begin throwing items away or to clean any area of the home. If your parent is a hoarder, they think of their items as valuable possessions, and by throwing the items away, it may increase their depression, increase their need to gather more items and damage your relationship.

Addressing the hoarding

The best thing to do for your parent who is a hoarder is to seek professional help. This is a mental disorder and it needs to be addressed accordingly. The best scenario is to calmly discuss the problem with the parent and encourage them to talk with a therapist. A therapist who specializes in compulsive hoarding will visit your parents in their home for an evaluation of their mental and emotional condition.

Seeking help

Once your parent has agreed to sessions with a therapist, the clean-up process can begin. The cleaning process can be extremely hazardous, so it is vital that you arrange for professional assistance. You will need to arrange for a professional company, such as Next Day Dumpsters to remove the items from the home.

It is important to encourage your parents to continue with their mental health therapy even after the clean-up. In the majority of situations, hoarding is the secondary result of a deep emotional problem, and with continued therapy, your parent will soon be able to identify the cause of their hoarding as well as how to deal with their emotions in a manner that is healthier than hoarding.



Comment Profile ImageBarbara A
Comment #1 | Saturday, Dec 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm
This article, although written with good intentions, promotes the wrongful misconception of the general public, which perceives the hoarder as an "older adult." The author mentions "their home" numerous times in reference to the parent, not recognizing that "their home" (in its unsafe, unsanitary condition) is also the home of many minor children who have no choice but to live there.

As far as the statement advising against throwing items away, or it may "damage your relationship," the author clearly does not realize that most children of hoarders have spent their lives playing second-fiddle to the hoard, and that for many, the relationship is already damaged beyond repair.
Comment Profile ImageRachel Papworth (@greenandtidy)
Comment #2 | Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013 at 8:46 am
To be fair, this article is aimed at adults who might have a parent who hoards, so it is focused on older people with hoarding disorder.

Barbara A is right though that, when children are living in hoarded homes, it is sometimes essential to introduce a degree of compulsion to get the home to a state that safe for the child(ren).

I agree with the advice on throwing things out in so far as the article says "it is important to not think that the solution is to SIMPLY" throw things out etc. Most of all because it just won't work in the medium to longer term. Any clearance MUST be combined with a package of support, include mental health support.

Green and Tidy
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Comment Profile ImageL.
Comment #3 | Thursday, Dec 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm
I have made my mind up to let my father live as he wants to live. I no longer visit his home. We meet on neutral territory. The thing that wakes me in the middle of the night is the fear of having to deal with it all when he passes away.

Article Comments are contributed by our readers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Valley News staff. The name listed as the author for comments cannot be verified; Comment authors are not guaranteed to be who they claim they are.


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