Hoarding Disorder in Elderly Populations

When hoarding disorder occurs in older adults, or in the home of an older adult, special consideration must be given to the risk and capacity of the elder.

Elder Protective Services

As a protected class under state and federal laws, older adults must be protected from abuse or neglect which may result from hoarding disorder. 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 disorder may be causing such problems.

Aging Agencies

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.

Practical Considerations

Developing a personal relationship with older adults is important when addressing hoarding disorder.  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 with hoarding disorder to 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 hoarding disorder.