The collection of newspapers, magazines, old clothes and other items may cause fires while animal hoarding can spread contagious diseases. It is estimated that older adults represent a significant number of people who hoard.
The behavior of hoarding is seen in various illnesses. Because of that, it has been difficult to place in a diagnostic category. Time and/or age of onset are variable and the behavior differs from person to person.
Frequently, older adults have been found to hoard for the following reasons:
Hoarding is recognized as both a mental health issue and a public health problem. It is typically not an immediate crisis. The hoarding behavior usually has been occurring for a long time and hasty interventions will not resolve it. in addition, interventions without the older adult's cooperation can lead to the development of dangerous behaviors. Careful assessment of the individual situation is essential for a successful outcome.
Therefore, it is recommended that intervention be collaborative involving the older adult, family and other agencies, i.e. mental health, adult protective services, code enforcement, building & safety, animal control and criminal justice.
Negative results can occur when interventions are not carefully planned with a group of professionals with hoarding knowledge.
Mr. Y was an 82 year-old male widower living at a friend's house. Mr. Y began collecting and hoarding tools, parts and other equipment. The living space became so limited they slept on chairs. The family called the police for assistance. Eventually, several agencies were independently involved with the family. The lack of collaboration allowed the family to order dumpsters and discard the items. After his possessions were thrown away, Mr. Y was arrested because of the rage, anxiety, and delusions he developed.
It is recommended that intervention be collaborative involving the older adult, family and other agencies.
Ms. X was a 96 year-old female with poor vision. She lived alone with dozens of cats, dogs and parrots. In addition, some dead cats were found in the freezer. The house was filthy and foul smelling. Ms. X had several pending citations with heavy fines, a house lien and faced possible jail time. A mental health assessment uncovered that Ms. X suffered from isolation, significant depression and moderate memory loss. After several weeks of building a relationship, a geriatric mental health professional, in coordination with the other agencies, developed an intervention plan. Ultimately, Ms. X received the support needed to feel safe enough to agree to have the house professionally cleaned and in keeping with laws and regulations, she kept 8 animals.
Damecour, L. & Charron, M.
Frost, R. & Hartl, T.
Norma D. Thomas, DSW, LSW, ACSW, President and Co-Director - Center on Ethnic & Minority Aging.
We would like to thank the Los Angeles County Department of
Mental Health Older Adults System of Care Committee. It was through
their continuous leadership and dedication this fact sheet was developed.
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