piles of old newspapers According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding is the act of obsessively holding on to items that other people see as useless. For instance, there is a difference between a slightly cluttered home and one that is overrun with old newspapers, boxes and rotten food.

Did you know that hoarding is common among people suffering from dementia?

Per the Alzheimer’s Association, excessively stockpiling, hiding or rummaging for items can be a result of the memory loss and confusion brought on by dementia. In many cases, addressing a problem is more difficult to do with an older individual who has dementia than someone with sound judgment. We outline some of the ways you can approach the topic of hoarding with your loved one, from the Alzheimer’s Association.

1. Discuss the Issue Together

Older individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia need to be handled with care. People suffering from dementia have a tendency to react with aggression when confused. Rather than clearing out the home without telling your loved one, explain why it’s not healthy to obsessively collect and suggest a plan to clear the clutter together.

2. Identify Health and Safety Hazards

When it’s time to talk about hoarding behavior, one of the best approaches you can take is your loved one’s health and safety. Extreme clutter presents a fall hazard, while a collection of perishable food will eventually rot and cause odor in the home. If you are gentle in your explanation and express concern, your loved one is more likely to respond in a positive way.

3. Take It Slow

If your family member agrees to declutter, make it a gradual process. Those with dementia are prone to becoming overwhelmed by change and unfamiliarity, so it’s essential to be patient. Start cleaning out the house slowly and, even when you see no value in the hoarded items, allow your loved one the time to say goodbye.

4. Offer a Tradeoff

Negotiation often helps people feel better about what they don’t want to do. If it makes sense, offer a tradeoff to your loved one in exchange for getting rid of clutter. When it comes to food, it’s logical to restock the refrigerator with fresh food after clearing out what has gone bad. Convince your loved one that having new food in the house is much healthier.

5. Prevent Future Hoarding

Be strategic when decluttering a home; a hoarder may try to continue the behavior. For example, if you leave garbage bags at the end of the driveway, your loved one could rummage through for the items they want to keep. A person with dementia may forget about the decluttering process and begin to frantically search for items after you’ve left.

It can be a difficult decision, but elderly people with dementia are often safer living in a skilled nursing facility than on their own. Even if your loved one does not present hoarding behavior, consider admission to Avon Health Center before a serious injury occurs. Contact us today to learn more about the process.