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International OCD Foundation - Hoarding CenterFaces of The Hoarding Center

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Elder Services

by Christiana Bratiotis, PhD
Boston University 

When hoarding occurs in the home of an older adult, special consideration must be given to the risk and capacity of the elder. As a protected class under state and federal laws, older adults must be protected from abuse or neglect which may result from hoarding. Elder protective service agencies must protect older adults and can be contacted for information about state-specific laws and regulations. Once staff understand the definition of abuse or neglect, they can turn their attention to understanding how hoarding may be causing such problems. In addition to protective service agencies, specialized community aging agencies may be able to help when working with older adults. In particular, senior centers, councils on aging and area agencies on aging can assist with assessment and intervention of hoarding among elders. 

Developing a personal relationship with older adults is important. The relationship creates and keeps the older person motivated to work on their hoarding problem. When starting this relationship, elder service workers may want to focus on convincing the older person that they have the freedom and ability to make a positive impact on their lives. Helping people who hoard understand how their problem interferes in living the life they desire can be a powerful motivator, especially as it pertains to being able to live independently. Additionally, elder service workers who attend to the meaning of important objects—especially those with sentimental meaning or memorabilia from past experiences and life events—can help communicate a sensitivity to the meaning of possessions. This attention to personal treasures can help create and keep the trust needed for continued work on the hoarding problem.

International OCD Foundation Hoarding Center