Archive for March 10th, 2010
Posted on March 10, 2010 - by Nurse Virginia
Part 2 of 2
What about the elder who has lived with clutter for decades?
Sally came to us late one September evening, straight from what the police called her “Collyer Mansion.” (Collyer brothers, famous for hoarding, died March 1947 in their home in Manhattan.) Sally’s hair was matted, she and her clothes were well past –dirty. She was in her early eighties and clutching a pocket book. We soon found out the pocket book held personal papers and bank books. As well as some raw hamburger that appeared to have been in her pocket book for some time.
Sally moved in with a large number of boxes that she had refused to part with; a live mouse was residing in one of them. Sally immediately began “collecting” in the nursing facility. As she was cruising around the facility picking up newspapers, paper clips, magazines, anything lying around – the facility housekeeping staff was retrieving from her room the “collection” from the previous day. It was very important to keep up with Sally on a daily basis. Many times Sally could be found hanging around the employee exit because of her need to get out to the facility dumpster.
Is it a housekeeping issue or is it really a hoarding behavior? The elder who hoards, is not the elder who just has housekeeping problems, many times brought about because of a health condition making it difficult for them to perform the necessary cleaning routines. As with Sally, when someone addresses the housekeeping issues for them, as the facility did. The behavior continues, despite all attempts to change it.
The hoarder is not someone who is so indecisive that they can’t make that decision to throw something away. It is not the person who procrastinates and avoids thinking about the items that are stacking up. The hoarder intentionally “collects” things.
What do people hoard?
Research tells us that of the ten people who hoard, two of those are hoarding animals.
Gift bags, boxes, containers, things that they tell themselves they might need in the future and regret if they got rid of
Things they might want to keep in sight for when they will need them – so nothing is ever put away – or is given “it’s place”
Things that they may tell themselves are rare or one of a kind and must be saved
The most common things for people to hoard are paper, bags, rubber bands, paper clips, food, clothing
Characteristics of the hoarder:
· will resist all offers or attempts at assistance in disposing of saved items
· May voice the opinion that hoarded items are of great value
· Elder is living in small space – living area overtaken by clutter
· Many times all that is available to the hoarder is a small path through the clutter causing very hazardous conditions (this week a friend confided to me that her mother is a hoarder and tripped in her home breaking her ankle on the clutter – resulting in multiple future surgeries)
· Hoarders of animals will verbalize their delusion, that the animals are beloved pets that they can’t part with, (many times when the pet dies they continue to keep the dead animal) they fail to see that they are not providing good care for the animals
A team approach is necessary to assist a true hoarder, consisting of:
· Landlord if applicable.
· Legal representative
· Representative from Social Services
· Mental health professional
· Someone may be present from the County Building and Zoning Office as well as Fire and Safety if the property has been reported to them
Virginia Garberding, R.N.
Director of Education, The Wealshire, Lincolnshire, Illinois
Author: Please Get To Know Me – Aging with Dignity and Relevance