How to Handle Hoarding in Older Adults with Dementia

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Hoarding is a compulsive behavior that can affect people of all ages. However, some seniors with dementia develop hoarding habits if preexisting personality traits are magnified by the dementia itself. Such behaviors may also be associated with dementia-related insecurity, anger, or confusion, but they can still be worrisome for family caregivers. Fortunately, there are some ways to handle hoarding in older adults with dementia. 

Be Gentle & Understanding

Avoid unintentionally scolding your senior loved one or using language that causes him or her to get defensive, angry, or confused. Realize decreased brain functioning is contributing to the problem and is something your loved one can’t control. Instead, use a gentle tone and help your loved one thin out his or her collection so it becomes more manageable and organized. 

Address Clear Risks

Caregivers sometimes have to be a little deceptive for their loved ones’ safety and wellbeing. Focus on clear risks and take steps that might involve: 

  • Clearing clutter away from common pathways 
  • Regularly checking for spoiled food 
  • Looking for potential fire, fall, or electrical hazards related to accumulated items in certain locations

Older adults with dementia may have difficulty managing daily tasks safely. Caring for senior loved ones can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

Plan Engaging Activities

People with dementia may be able to curb their compulsive tendencies with engaging activities that redirect their need to organize and gather. For instance, you could ask your loved one to sort out kitchen drawers, put spices in order, or organize family photos. 

Create Memory Boxes

Trying to stop your loved one from collecting and gathering altogether may result in agitation and other behavioral issues. What you can do instead is create special keepsakes or memory boxes so your loved one can put things he or she likes to collect, such as stray socks, ties, magnets, or newspaper clippings, in different boxes. Doing so can make it easier to keep track of the clutter and allow you to quietly get rid of some boxes when your loved one loses interest in them. 

Switch to Online Bill Paying

Seniors with dementia who also hoard may do so with the mail. This can be a problem if monthly bills get buried, misplaced, or forgotten. One way to handle this issue is to set up automatic payments for recurring bills. 

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of elderly home care Richmond, VA, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

Secure Valuables

When your loved one hoards indiscriminately, valuables such as heirlooms or jewelry may get misplaced, damaged, or accidentally thrown away. If possible, replace some meaningful valuables with inexpensive replicas and store the real ones somewhere secure. In some cases, you might have to lock doors to certain rooms if you want to protect the valuables inside. 

Sweep “Hiding Places”

Hoarding seniors often have favorite places like drawers, closets, and even trash cans where they prefer to squirrel things away for safekeeping. Learn your loved one’s preferred hiding spots and regularly check these locations, especially since hoarding may involve items belonging to you or other family members—some of which may include things sure to be missed, like wallets, cell phones, or credit cards. 

Talk to Your Loved One’s Doctor

Antipsychotic and antidepressant medications sometimes keep compulsive tendencies related to dementia under control. Ask your loved one’s doctor if these options are appropriate. 

Dementia can be challenging for seniors to manage, but they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional dementia care. Richmond seniors can benefit greatly from the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program designed to promote cognitive health and delay the onset of dementia. CTM is included at no additional charge with any of the in-home care plans provided by Home Care Assistance. If you need professional home care for your loved one, reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (804) 207-4746.


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