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Hoarding and collecting: There is a difference Jenny Wallis | Sat, Apr 06 2013 12:00 PM

Dear Jenny,
I was at my in laws house this past week and saw that they seem to be collecting and storing just about everything they get their hands on or have ever had their hands on, it was disgusting for me to look at, but my husband thought it was not a big deal.  I am wondering, is this common behavior for seniors?


Compulsive hoarding , also known as pathological collecting, sometimes called, pack ratting is a patterned behavior that is characterized by the extreme collecting of and the inability or reluctance to discard large quantities of items.  Usually these items cover the living areas of the home and cause major distress. This type of behavior (Compulsive Hoarding) has been associated with different health risks, impaired functioning, economic burden, and negative effects on friends and family members.

People who tend to hoard identify their possessions as central to their identities. Losing or disposing of a possession may produce extreme anxiety or a sense of loss and grief.

There is research that suggests pre-Alzheimer’s personality may trigger hoarding behavior.

Someone who was already prone to experiencing anxiety, when faced with aging and the possibility of outliving their resources, may begin to collect and save to go against the overwhelming feeling of what lies ahead.

Many times hoarding demonstrates a need for comfort because of the deep fears and anxiety the victim has been through. Others will hold on to items because they dread their memories will be lost without that tangible evidence of the past.

Hoarders don’t collect because their stash has a financial value; many appear to be unable to judge the intrinsic worth of individual items. Most everything they surround themselves with is equally important, that means that nothing can be thrown away. Being surrounded by their “stuff” seems to give them a sense of comfort and security.

Even if their hoard is removed, most hoarders have a compulsion to re-establish the status quo that they were comfortable with. If enough resources are given to them they will restore their hoard just as quickly as they can. They will even acknowledge that it’s unpleasant not to be able to move around or use their furniture. Most of the time the hoarders even agree that they are sad and embarrassed they can’t invite people into their homes.

However, the other alternative, moving the “junk” is much more painful than being in a dirty and crowded environment.

Clutter collecting or hoarding is most common, but not limited to, seniors.

Here are some common reasons why seniors hold onto stuff:
• The sentimental Attachment
• The sense of loyalty
• The need to conserve
• The fatigue
• The change in health
• The fear of letting go
• The trepidation of the future
• The love of shopping
• The history and memories
• The loneliness

If you have questions about senior care or helping an elderly loved one, contact Jenny Wallis, Community Marketing Director at Villa Bonita Senior Living at 619-739-4400 or by e-mail at villabonitamkg2@islllc.com.   Villa Bonita Senior Living is an Assisted Living Community licensed by the California Department of Social Services, located at 3434 Bonita Road, Chula Vista, CA  91910.  You can also visit Villa Bonita online at www.villabonitaseniorliving.com.

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