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Identifying Signs of Hoarding in Seniors and Strategies for Prevention

by | Jun 19, 2024 | Caregivers Support, Caregiving, Lifestyle & Wellness, Wellness

Hoarding is a complex mental health disorder that can affect individuals of all ages, including seniors. As people age, they may be more susceptible to hoarding behaviours due to various factors such as loneliness, loss of loved ones, or physical limitations. Recognizing the signs of hoarding in seniors and implementing preventive strategies can help improve their quality of life and overall well-being. Hoarding could be a symptom of underlying mental health conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or developed after trauma or deep grief. Yet the hoarding behaviour may be more prevalent in Singapore than we think. The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) estimates that one in 50 Singaporeans will display hoarding behaviour during their lifetime.

Furthermore, Hoarders might have difficulty discarding or parting ways with their possessions regardless of the actual value of the items. In Singapore, age-wise, research shows that hoarding is about three times more prevalent in those aged above 55 compared to younger adults. Read on to spot the signs of hoarding and how to prevent an over-cluttered living environment.


Signs of Hoarding in Seniors
1.    Excessive Clutter

Seniors who hoard may have excessive belongings that clutter their living spaces, making it challenging to move around or perform daily activities.

2.    Difficulty Discarding Items

Seniors with hoarding tendencies may struggle to part with seemingly insignificant items, leading to a buildup of possessions over time.

3.    Emotional Attachment to Objects

Hoarders often develop strong emotional attachments to their belongings, viewing them as extensions of themselves or sources of comfort.

4.    Social Isolation

Seniors who hoard may withdraw from social interactions and avoid inviting others into their homes due to shame or embarrassment about their living conditions.

5.    Safety Hazards

Hoarding can pose serious safety risks for seniors, such as increased fire hazards, tripping hazards, and unsanitary living conditions.


Preventive Strategies for Hoarding in Seniors
1.    Education and Awareness

Educate seniors and their caregivers about the signs and consequences of hoarding to increase awareness and promote early intervention.


2.    Encourage Decluttering

Help seniors declutter their living spaces by sorting through belongings, identifying items to keep, donate, or discard, and creating organized storage systems.

3.    Emotional Support

Acknowledge seniors’ feelings and encourage them as they navigate the decluttering process.

4.    Professional Help

Encourage seniors to seek professional help from therapists, social workers, or organizers specializing in hoarding disorder to address underlying psychological issues.

5.    Regular Check-Ins:

Maintain regular check-ins with seniors to monitor their living conditions, provide ongoing support, and prevent hoarding behaviours from escalating.

6.    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

In instances where hoarding is connected to such issues, addressing the root cause can help diminish the hoarding tendencies. For instance, cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of psychotherapy, is increasingly acknowledged as a successful intervention.

7.    Seek Help From Hoarding Task Force

Singapore has established a Hoarding Task Force that leverages the expertise and resources of various agencies, including the Ministry of National Development (MND), Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), Housing Development Board (HDB), and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). Additionally, entities like the National Environment Agency, People’s Association, Institute of Mental Health, and the Singapore Police Force are also involved in this collaborative effort. Under the leadership of HDB, which coordinates the responses of the relevant agencies, the task force heavily relies on grassroots organizations and volunteers to address hoarding issues. While serving as a valuable initial point of contact for reporting hoarding cases, greater community awareness is essential to bring more instances to light.

In conclusion, recognizing the signs of hoarding in seniors and taking proactive measures to prevent it are essential for safeguarding their health and happiness. By increasing awareness, providing assistance, and tackling root emotional causes, we can empower seniors to live in safe, organized spaces. Let us join hands in fostering a caring and understanding community that supports seniors in overcoming hoarding tendencies and enjoying a better quality of life.

About Growing Needs

About Growing Needs

Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.

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