Elderly Hoarders: 5 Compassionate Ways to Help

Excessive Treasures or Junk?

To you it’s clutter. To them, they’re valuables. Maybe treasures.

The sight of ‘junk’ blocking hallways and piling up in each room disgusts you.

Stacks of paper everywhere cause worry about fire hazards.

The odor sickens you. You gag. Gasp. Cry.

You’re Angry! You have been here in this exact place so many times.

You’re embarrassed, and maybe even ashamed, that your parents live here. They ‘caused’ this.

Both parties agree you own “excessive treasures.”

You’ve stopped visiting as the piles of treasures began growing.

Your children, their grandchildren, have never visited.

You deem their home unsafe, and them unstable.

You beg, hope and pray for it to stop and to go away.

It doesn’t.

They remain socially isolated and lonely in what you call squalor.

Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding Disorder is a clinical diagnosis.

Did you know that up to 1 in 20 of the elderly have tendencies that are consistent with hoarding? 

A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins revealed that about 4% of the population as a whole shows hoarding behavior, but that percentage goes up to 6.2 in people over 55.

It has emotional, physical, and even financial or legal implications.

Hoarding can have a devastating impact on older adults:

  • Risk for falling: Will emergency workers be able to reach them after a fall, or anytime?
  • Poor hygiene: Is the bathtub/shower full of papers or empty bags?
  • Fires, mold and mildew in the home
  • Poor nutrition: Spoiled food can cause foodborne illness
  • Rodents and insects in the home
  • Utilities. Air conditioning, heat and running water. Are they turned off? The freezing cold is as dangerous as the heat.
  • Other medical problems, including depression

It can also indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s, dementia or mental illness.

5 Ways to Help Elderly Hoarders

1. Join them for a medical evaluation

Since hoarding is almost always connected to mental health or other health condition, it’s likely your parent may need professional help. Schedule a full medical evaluation for them and then go to the appointment and any follow-up visits. Learn if their hoarding behavior is caused by dementia, Alzheimer’s or other condition. If not, psychiatric care may be needed.

Denise Craft of Craft Lifestyle Management, who has worked for over 30 years with elderly hoarders, says all hoarders have a “dis-ease” of the soul from this learned behavior.

2. Start small and make it a special event

Acknowledge that the process of decluttering your parent’s home is going to be hard and require a ton of patience. Bring a good attitude and try to make it conflict-free. Perhaps you can call it “Memories Monday” or “Super Saturday.”

Remember, every single item, down to the scraps of paper, IS important to them.

Agree you’re going to stick to a weekly calendared date and identify which room will be worked on for each date.

For instance, start in the bathroom and remove expired medications and old make-up. Or the stairways where you remove stacks of papers and shoes, etc.

Be sure to acknowledge their ability to let go of these items, many hazardous to their well-being. Keep in mind, each item they’re willing to discard takes a lot out of them and may be considered a victory. Show them they can do it, together. And, of course, never start decluttering without the owner’s cooperation.

3. Sort with a System

Remember, you’re coming into their home causes stress and chaos in their already chaotic life. They may feel threatened and find many excuses not to proceed. Be gentle, kind, compassionate and always patient.

In addition to identifying the day of the week for sorting and decluttering, also set up areas where sorted items will be placed:

  • Charitable donations
  • Valuables and keepsakes
  • Trash

It does not help the soul to contribute to the hoarding behavior by agreeing to rent a storage unit for your parent during this sorting and decluttering process.

There are ways to negotiate with them on this specific topic.

Keep the focus on their safety and your concern for them.

4. Acknowledge sentimental items

Many hoarders hang on to items because they consider them unique and irreplaceable, attaching great sentimental value to the item.

Listen to the story and/or the memory of the item. Ensure it doesn’t have great monetary value. If not, suggest taking a photo of the item to keep the memory alive rather than keeping the item. Again, be patient. This process takes time and assurance.

5. Hire an outside company

Sometimes the clutter and the family dynamics and emotions are too much for loved ones to handle.

Walking into this environment can cause ‘paralysis’ Not knowing where, or how, to begin.

Craft Lifestyle Management has been assisting families in these situations for three decades.

Contact us. http://www.craftlifestylemgt.com

We are trained and experienced in handling excessive treasure situations with care and compassion for both your loved one and you.

Learn More:

Definition of late life compulsive hoarding:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4083761/

What is hoarding disorder?

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/hoarding-disorder/what-is-hoarding-disorder

© June 2020. Craft LifeStyle Management. All Rights Reserved.

Written by Linda Leier Thomason for Craft LifeStyle Management.

Denise Craft founded Craft Lifestyle Management in 1988 to ease the burden for families of aging, veterans, special needs adults and those in rehab during times of transition. She has a special place in her heart for those who collect excessive treasures.  She understands the conflict hoarding often causes within families and frequently mediates the process with and for them. If you have a loved one who collects excessive treasures and you need assistance, please contact Denise at Craft Lifestyle Management http://craftlifestylemgt.com/contact/.

Growing up Gay in the Midwest: Collin’s Story

Feeling Like a Fraud Living Someone Else’s Life

Meet Collin

  • 25-years old
  • Native of McCook, Nebraska
  • Son of farmers/ranchers
  • Older brother to two sisters
  • College graduate- BS Marketing Management
  • A 6-year financial services career professional
  • Omaha resident, and a
  • Gay man

Defining Gay

As a teenager, Collin understood the term “gay” to mean someone who liked men, often times was feminine and usually was seen as less than an individual for liking the same sex. He and his peer group said “gay” to jokingly describe something they didn’t like. It was “gay!”

In his household and community being gay was seen as a negative thing. “You didn’t want to become someone like them, meaning-gay.” The term was always used in a derogatory way.

He, himself, used the term to describe others in negative way, which he apologizes for today.

“I think it was such a normalized term to show a thing or a person is not like the rest.”

Signs & Symbols

Even while he and his peers were calling something/someone “gay” Collin wondered if he might be. He

  • Had an attraction to other men his age
  • Didn’t feel a connection to girls other than friendship
  • Read and researched “what it means to be gay”
  • Was interested in things classified as “gay” while growing up-like décor, landscaping, keeping a tidy room, etc.

I’m Gay

Collin acknowledged to himself that he was gay just before his 2013 college freshman year, although he kept this understanding to himself.

 “It was a pretty lonely feeling having admitted this to myself but not sharing it with anyone else.”

He was scared and had tremendous uncertainty about what his future held.

“I was in stress overdrive not knowing what lay ahead as a recent high school graduate already. Adding “gay” to the mix only compounded it.”

He hinted to his family but didn’t openly discuss it until June of 2017 when his dad flat out asked him if he was gay. “Yeah, yeah, I am.” To Collin’s surprise, the chat with his dad went quite well. He’s so grateful for this.

“My dad was a little more okay with it in the beginning than my mom, which is something I didn’t expect.

My sisters were pretty chill and so were all of my friends who already knew.”

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d have come out sooner, and get to enjoying my life a lot quicker.”

Filtered Behavior

Looking back, Collin acknowledges that his spirit and overall well-being were hindered as a teenager.

“I filtered what I said, how I acted, talked and dressed, which was upsetting.”

He just wanted to be himself without things like, “He’s gay or look at that homo,” being said about him.

Collin lacked gay role models but looked to his grandmother and a close family friend, neither let others determine their self-worth.

City or Country

Collin moved from rural Nebraska to its largest city to attend college and work. He never felt like he’d have to move to Omaha to be accepted.

However, he acknowledges that it’s easier for a gay person to be accepted, and perhaps happier, when they have gay friends and/or someone who understands them in a way they need to be understood.

He hasn’t detected any barriers to employment but does admit he catches himself filtering certain parts of his life with co-workers.

He tries not to be known as “the gay one” and fights thoughts about worth because of his sexuality.

“Even though I do this, not once have I ever been rejected or felt out of place by sharing my life with co-workers.”

Filtering is a deep-seated habit.

Not Easy

Collin admits there’s room for improvement regarding acceptance in Nebraska.

“I would like to walk down the street and not think twice about grabbing my partner Cody’s hand.”

Though he hasn’t felt unsafe in Nebraska, he has gay friends who have.

He’s an advocate of prioritizing mental health as high as physical health and regularly sees a counselor.

His visits are not for living as a gay man but for maintaining good mental health.

“Every part of my life has benefited from attending regular counseling.”

Rural Youth

Collin has a passion for listening to and guiding gay individuals, especially in rural areas. Here’s his best counsel:

1. Be yourself, if you can and it’s safe to do so. People will talk or look or maybe even make a snide comment, but being comfortable in your own skin is worth so much more.

2. Take steps to educate your parents, teachers, peers or friends on what it actually means to be gay. It’s more than likely not Ru Paul’s Drag Race in real life. Ignorance is a voluntary misfortune, and sometimes it only takes knowing one gay person to change that person’s perception.

3. Support other gay individuals you know who have yet to come out. Don’t belittle them, or go along with what your friends say around them. “This is the one thing I regret deeply from high school and early college years.”

4. It is okay to be different. Homosexuality is a part of me. It doesn’t solely define me. I have many straight friends and me being gay would be one of the last things they would use to describe me.

“Having said that, the one thing I’m most disappointed in about being gay is seeing others still treat gay people differently after knowing me, and accepting me for who I am.

Ahead

Today, Collin enjoys life with Cody, a paramedic in a pre-med and emergency management program.

He likes to travel, hang out with family and friends and tackle DIY house projects.

Someday he’d like to have a family, including children.

His greatest wish is that all struggling with their sexuality are somehow taken care of.

Adding, “I hope I never have to hear the word “faggot” or “gay” used in a demeaning nature to describe someone again.”

The most joyous part of his identity journey has been the individuals he’s had the pleasure of meeting, and those unexpected allies.

A wish, for all.

Cody & Collin. Traveling-his favorite pastime.

What Can You Do?

  • SHARE this story. You know there’s someone who needs to hear Collin’s story today.
  • Drop a positive message for Collin below.
  • Stop judging others. Start helping.
  • Have an accepting heart.
  • Even if you don’t agree with a gay lifestyle, love the person.

Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth-resources.htm CDC

http://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/resource_guide_april_2014.pdf HRC.ORG

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/LGBT-Resources.aspx American Academy of Pediatrics

https://lgbtqa.unl.edu/welcome University of NE-Lincoln

http://www.pflag-omaha.org/ PFLAG-Omaha

©March 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details on the form.

Navigating Decades of Depression & Anxiety

Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. (National Institute of Mental Health) More than 1 out of 20 Americans 12 years of age and older reported current depression in 2005–2006.(Pratt LA, Brody DJ. Depression in the United States household population, 2005–2006. NCHS Data Brief. 2008(7):1–8.)

Here One Brave Follower Shares Her Struggles With Anxiety & Depression. If you have a story you’d like to share, contact me. Linda

depChildhood Illness Shakes Family of 8
I am the youngest of six children raised by a RN mother and draftsman father. At age eight, I suddenly became ill with three debilitating autoimmune disorders: Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and Raynaud’s phenomenon. These diagnoses changed my life forever and disrupted our family dynamic. Today I know these factors are the root cause of my lifelong struggle with depression.
My mother was my lifeline and I developed an unnatural physical and emotional dependency on her to the detriment of my siblings. For example, my sister who is five years older than me had challenges with anxiety and demonstrated symptoms of hypochondria to get attention from our Mom. For many years, Mom and I left home every three months for three days at a time to get me non-traditional treatment at an osteopathic clinic. Thankfully I was able to keep up at school with the help of some amazing teachers.
I missed out on many events, both at school and at home. At family holiday gatherings, I was typically on the couch or in my room. I was spoiled and everyone knew it. We weren’t wealthy so soda pop and cookies were rare, but since I was underweight, my parents bought me any food I requested, hoping I’d eat it and gain weight. One of my brothers was observant enough to understand this and often asked me to request certain food for him. I did.
Because there were no identified treatments for my condition, I was left to battle the challenging symptoms and the accompanying barrage of viral and bacterial illnesses with the aid of my constant companion, my mother. Antibiotics worked for the bacterial infections, but I more frequently had viruses that couldn’t be treated. There were no pharmaceuticals at that time for my autoimmune conditions. There probably are today.
Junior High Challenges
I spent junior high with low self-esteem and a very small circle of friends because I’d become extremely self-conscious of my condition. While my health had improved by this time, my self-image was framed by the previous years of illness, residual health challenges and a telltale facial butterfly rash. I was isolated by the illnesses and only had friends when I wasn’t sick. I’d developed an unhealthy belief I was defective and unworthy. All of this was exacerbated by depression and anxiety challenges that I’ve since learned are associated with autoimmune disease. I was never able to physically participate in gym class activities from second grade forward and without participation I didn’t develop any skill and had physical limitations in my hands and elbows. I missed a lot of school, but kept up enough to get good grades. I was never diagnosed with depression because at this time depression and anxiety conditions were rarely discussed or treated, especially in children. It wasn’t until I was in college that a general practitioner treated me for anxiety. I was given medication I took when I felt I needed it. Even at this age, I continued to lean on my mother for support.
College Obsession for Perfection
In college I became obsessed with the one thing I thought I could control in my life – my grade point average (GPA). Achieving that meant I was good at something, but the resulting stress I placed on myself to get a 4.0 required my taking anti-anxiety medications. Unless I got 100% on all tests and papers, I felt I failed. I beat myself up for less than perfection. This causes depression. I studied a lot. I did date some, but studying and grades were my priorities and certainly there was no play before all studying was complete. I lived at home so I didn’t have the same social experiences that those who lived with other students had. I did start college in the dorms, but I had to work food service to pay my room and board. I had a full class schedule so I went to class and studied and tried to have fun, but I couldn’t handle it physically and got mononucleosis (mono) so I had to withdraw from school to recuperate. That was a real low in my life. I finally felt like I was gaining my independence and my health, once again, prevented me from doing so. I lived at home for the rest of my college career. I was very capable socially with adults, as I spent a lot of time with my parents and their friends. I didn’t do as well with people of my own age. I was unpracticed and self-conscious.
I was anxious and depressed all through college but not enough not to participate in life. I had goals and hope for my future. Good grades gave me the self-esteem to muster through and to enter graduate school.
Never Good Enough
Following graduate school, my measurement of self-worth shifted to achievement in my work and resulting job titles. However, there was never sufficient evidence to convince me I was good enough. The unfulfilled expectations of me resulted in heightened levels of anxiety and depression. At this point in my life I was married (and beginning to feel trapped in the marriage) and working at my first job. My depression led to hyperventilation. I didn’t know that was what was happening. It wasn’t like you see in movies. I couldn’t detect a breathing issue. I just felt like I was going to pass out. After being passed around to several doctors, I was sent to a neurologist, who diagnosed my depression. This is when I was put on an antidepressant that I took for many years. The number, shape and colors of the antidepressant medications changed over the many years to follow as hyperventilation and other symptoms of anxiety and depression escalated. Remember, talk therapy was not mainstream then either. In fact, I didn’t experience this until after my divorce.
Debilitating Hopelessness
A marriage, subsequent divorce, and later the death of my mother, and two reductions-in-force (job losses) resulted in a deepened state of hopelessness and heightened anxiety. My low point was after the second job loss. The first lay off was as bad as I thought it could get, but the second one exceeded the first. I didn’t have the energy or hope to go on. The depression and anxiety became debilitating. I couldn’t do anything but sleep, shake and cry. I ended up in a psychologist’s office and admitted I didn’t want to live. I wasn’t suicidal per se, but I simply had no hope for a future. She referred me to an inpatient depression program. It really didn’t help me. What I needed was a job. That’s the only way I could regain a semblance of a life. Somehow I could quit bouncing my leg and get myself together for interviews, and I did get a job that I really didn’t want because I didn’t want to move out-of-state. At this point I was on some pretty powerful medications, but I still wasn’t doing well emotionally. I was living in another city, feeling all alone and out-of-place. I was alive and going through the motions, but was not myself at all. New and more pills were prescribed with abysmal results, but I battled on…..barely.
Suicidal Co-Worker Saved Me
Miraculously, I was able to rejoin a previous employer and return to my home, but the anxiety and depression remained prominent. Because I was back in my home and in a familiar city, I was better emotionally but still struggling mightily to get through a work day. My biggest challenge was short-term memory issues caused by depression. With what I attribute to serendipity, I subsequently hired a vibrant young woman who later disclosed her past suicide attempt while taking antidepressants. Her mother, an RN, was desperate to find an effective alternative treatment. What she discovered was an amino acid protocol, the results of which literally save her daughter’s life.
Because of the honesty of my co-worker and the success I’d seen her have on the amino acid protocol, about 18 months ago; I made a successful transition from traditional antidepressants to amino acid treatment. While my results haven’t been as dramatic as hers, which I attribute to my auto-immune disease and the many accumulated years of depression and anxiety, I am functioning much better than I was while taking anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs, and without their many undesirable side-effects. Today I take no prescription anti-anxiety or depression drugs.
Gratitude and Hope
I feel grateful for finding a treatment that more effectively manages my depression and anxiety without the many unpleasant side effects of traditional drug therapy. I am exercising, traveling, following a healthy, gluten-free diet, and functioning better at work than I have since my second job loss.
Being open and honest about my struggles with depression is not easy. I chose to share my journey, hoping others who personally suffer, or are close to someone who suffers, from depression and anxiety will find hope.
I wish you well.

Resources for those needing more information.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute on Aging

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

A Week in Solitary

I vowed to spend the week in solitary when my husband left for business.  I spent a week by myself not a week in silence. Baby steps here. A week alone with complete silence seems insurmountable.

Solitary has never been my thing. How can it be? I was raised in a family of 11 with hundreds of cousins. I lived in dorms. I worked in offices and on Capitol Hill. There was always noise and movement around me. I thrived in these settings, or at least I thought I did as a social creature.

As the week in solitary progressed and my “to-do” list rapidly dwindled, I grew somewhat contemplative. I thought about those devoted to monastic silence by choice and those placed in solitary confinement in prisons. Monks seeking calm, serenity and peace of mind conflicted with prisoners in confined spaces filled with angst, rage and contempt. Such contrasting routes and approaches to solitude.

Little noise and distraction unlocked solitary moments warehoused in my memory. I relived my wedding day before driving downtown Charleston, SC to get dressed for the ceremony. The calmness I felt as I lazily completed piddly tasks alone around my house came back. I recalled sitting on the porch marveling how I was living my last minutes as a single woman while feeling the excitement of our forthcoming ceremony and reception. Insisting I be alone that morning was the right decision. It kept me focused and in the moment. Solitude prepared me for commitment.

Later I recalled overnight feedings of our infant son. Holding him in the crook of my left arm propped up with a pillow while rocking him in the night’s darkness: the intimacy of those silent irreplaceable moments. In the stillness I listened to him, though he could not yet speak. Solitude naturally bonded mother and son.

Not all unlocked memories of solitude were blissful. Sometimes being all alone in thought and presence is scary. I shivered recalling how solitude paralyzed me as I sat next to a friend dying of AIDS. Though together, I felt completely alone. The room was eerily quiet, except for the surrounding machines and medical staff moving in and out of the room. None made eye contact. An unspoken understanding existed that these were our last moments together. I grasped his limp hand and didn’t dare cry, trumping his pain with mine. Crying would ruin the silence needed for his ending. Solitude readied me for grieving.

As I worked through one memory after another, testifying that I’d previously not only endured but sometimes thrived in solitary, it became clear that a very distinct difference exists between loneliness and solitude. One is painful, the other meditative. While I advocate for meditation and solitude, I understand that many are lonely and suffer deeply from disconnection and loneliness. Loneliness feels like punishment while voluntarily placing oneself in solitary is a priceless gift.

And when the garage door opened signaling my husband’s return, my week in solitary ended. My unlocked memories remained as did faith in myself that I could endure and appreciate future weeks in solitary.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused by the busyness of daily life, force yourself to a period of solitary. Be quiet. Recall the past. Relive the joy. Understand the pain. Appreciate the moment. A week in solitary is worth the initial discomfort. It offers perspective. It adds depth to your life.

“We need to find God. And he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature-trees, flowers, grass grows in silence. See the starts, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.- Mother Teresa-

Retreat Centers:

Cloisters on the Platte in Nebraska http://www.cloistersontheplatte.com

Benedictine Peace Center in Yankton, SD http://yanktonbenedictines.org

Creighton University Retreat Center in Griswold, Iowa http://creighton.edu/ministry/retreatcenter

St. Benedict Center in Schuyler Nebraska http://www.stbenedictcenter.com

Website of Retreat Centers http://www.retreatfinder.com

Have you been on a silent retreat or forced yourself into a week of solitary? Comment. How did the experience work for  you?

Copyright. October 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.

All Rights Reserved.