If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), with a tendency to hoard his/her personal possessions, you probably already know just how frustrating the situation can be. But why do seniors tend to hang on to their possessions? Understanding the dynamics behind hoarding can really help families cope with the situation in a more productive manner.
The following are just a few of the reasons that many seniors (including those with AD) want to hang on to their possessions:
1.Seniors have an innate desire to preserve material items, partially because many of them went through the great depression and had little to no material possessions. This instilled a resistance to throwing things away.
2.Many personal items have sentimental value to seniors-particularly when the items provide a reminder of a loved one who has passed away. These items may seem irreplaceable and valuable in that they are all that is left to remind the senior of their loved one/s.
3.There may be a sense of loyalty that many seniors have to friends and family who have given them gifts. Throwing away possessions that were given as gifts may seem wrong to a senior who has attached meaning to these items.
4.In many elderly homes, the senior may be unable to clean out clutter due to a health issue, lack of motivation or even depression.
Tips on Handling Hoarding Issues
Understanding some of the reasons that seniors with AD may hoard may help family members deal with the problem in a positive manner. When going through possessions, encourage consolidation of keepsakes-try suggesting a scrap book or upload boxes of old photos onto the internet and get rid of paper photos and save space. Encourage your loved one to give back gifts to the person the giver, or pass keepsakes down to the grandchildren. Explain that this is a good way to ensure that possessions are given to those who will really treasure the memories long term.
If your loved one with AD suffers from depression or other physical limitations, they will need assistance in sorting through and getting rid of clutter. Enlisting the help of younger family members to work together and address the problem is a good strategy. There are also professionals who can come into the home and help seniors clean up and get organized.
Those seniors with severe dementia who are unable to perform any household cleaning duties probably need ongoing care in the home, or at some point may be candidates for a more structured living environment.
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