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The Dangers of Senior Hoarding

In the heart of Manhattan, two wealthy brothers, Homer and Langley Collyer, lived trapped by compulsive hoarding and the dark mystery of mental illness. Their luxury Fifth Avenue home was hiding a secret: huge piles of newspapers, books, and over 130 tons of accumulated waste. On March 30th, 1947, Homer was found dead from malnutrition. Shockingly, a week later, just 10 feet away, Langley was discovered buried beneath the very clutter that defined their lives. He'd been trying to care for his paralyzed and blind brother but tragically became a victim of their own chaotic world. They are still recognized as the very first fatal case of hoarding. 

This story becomes our gateway into exploring hoarding, especially among seniors, by understanding the condition as a mental illness, understanding and recognizing its stages, and exploring solutions to address it.

What is Hoarding?

Hoarding disorder is a condition describing difficulty throwing away gathered possessions. The individual often refuses to part with possessions, because they believe that they need to save them, experiencing distress at the thought of getting rid of them.

Five Stages Of Hoarding

Hoarding can occur through the years, slowly progressing from one stage to the next. However, recognizing the decline is the key to providing immediate help to the individual.
  • Stage 1: Small clutter, slight struggle discarding items.
  • Stage 2: Visible clutter, avoiding having guests.
  • Stage 3: Significant accumulations, some areas becoming unusable.
  • Stage 4: Pronounced clutter, personal care neglect, reduced social interactions.
  • Stage 5: Overwhelming clutter, home functionality severely impacted, health and safety concerns prevalent.

Is Hoarding A Mental Illness?

Hoarding is recognized by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America as a compulsion to acquire and save items of little or no value, negatively impacting an individual emotionally, socially, and financially. It's a mental health disorder, often coexisting with other conditions like depression or OCD.

Offering Help

Hoarding is a condition which calls for a team of several professionals to achieve the best possible outcome. The multidisciplinary team should involve mental health professionals, best if they are specialized in hoarding, organizers, and cleaners. Consistent follow-ups are crucial to ensure the maintenance of a clean, safe living environment and to provide constant psychological support.

Incorporating Specialized Home Care Services

Since the occurrence of hoarding is prevalent among seniors, specialized home care services can be of significant importance. Professional help can help with both the psychological and the practical distress of hoarders, by offering services such as cleaning and organizing, as well as addressing the psychological struggle of the individual and helping them to understand it.
Long-term recovery and safe living conditions can be established, by ensuring that the individuals battling with hoarding receive not just a clean space, but the psychological support and tools they need to maintain it. 
Mayo Clinic: Hoarding Disorder
Hoarding: The Basics
What Is A Hoarding Disorder? 
Help And Hoarding
Koenig TL, Leiste MR, Spano R, Chapin RK.: Multidisciplinary team perspectives on older adult hoarding and mental illness. 

Founded in 2008, Ezra Home Care offers live-in home care, 24-hour care, and hourly senior care.
All our caregivers are state-certified and provide services like personal carehousekeepingcompanionship, help with medication, and transportation assistance. We've spent 15 years refining our caregiver selection process to ensure families' peace of mind. Reach out for details and quotes.

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