Home Care: Managing Hoarding Behaviors in Seniors With Dementia



Managing Hoarding Behaviors in Seniors With Dementia

People with dementia may pose various challenges whether they are at home or a senior care facility. As they grow older with the disease, they start to lose the capability of keeping their house in order. Uncontrolled hoarding has commonly been observed in people with dementia. They may hoard various items such as leftover food, dirty clothes, used boxes, rubber bands and anything they value. Research says that dementia hoarding is often influenced by the fear of things being robbed.


Know Dementia Hoarding

The American Psychiatric Association suggests people suffering from dementia hoarding would abnormally save clutters. They would often hide their belongings, forget them subsequently and later blame people for having stolen them. They have difficulty in throwing away even worthless possessions, resulting in the piling of clutters that disturb their day-to-day lives and the place they are living in. This may even pose challenges for the caregivers as their living space may become a mess.


The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that these characteristics in people with dementia are the result of mental confusion, memory loss, impaired judgment, hallucination or disorientation, and disbelief.  Hoarding items or hiding and rummaging worthless goods may occur in the early or middle stages of dementia.


Psychologists say that these behaviors are generally an endeavor by people with dementia to re-establish security in their life. Subsequently, people with dementia may hide, hoard or collect because they do not recognize or trust people.


As dementia progresses, they would often spend excessive time in searching for things they have hidden. This would usually upset and disturb those with dementia creating troubles for the caregivers.


Tips to Manage Hoarding Behavior

While people with dementia are in greater trouble due to the hoarding behavior, it may sometimes be equally disturbing and challenging for the caregivers. In such situations, the caregivers must be supportive and use a calm approach while they encounter the hoarding intentions of their loved ones.


It is important for the caregiver to understand that hoarding the clutters give a sense of security to those with dementia. Thus, removing those items without any notification may agitate your loved ones. You must apply the following tips suggested by the Alzheimer’s Association while cleaning the clutter:


  • Select and remove only those items which may otherwise be hazardous to your loved ones. 
  • Make them aware of the reasons for removing those items, such as safety, charity, and relatives. 
  • Negotiation and explanation are very important. Replace the useless goods with new ones. For example, rotten food must be immediately exchanged for the fresh food. This would give the sense of achievement to the people with dementia. 
  • Your loved one may be highly attached to certain items and may not be willing to throw them away. A novel idea would be to take pictures of such items and let them keep the pictures as mementos. 
  • Patience works tremendously well in such situations. Psychologists say that the person with dementia has real issues in parting ways with their belongings. Thus, you will have to allow them time to bid goodbye to the clutters. 
  • Make sure to clear the disposed of items right away. Your loved one may rummage or look through the dustbins to bring the items back into the living space. 
  • If the person with dementia has agreed to help you remove the hoardings, help and guide them through. You may indulge in an interaction and create a fun activity out of it. 
  • You must be prepared for the unnatural reaction or reservation from your loved ones while clearing the clutter. Seek help from your friends, relatives or social workers for supporting you in the cause and also to help them.


It has been suggested by the Alzheimer’s Association that temptations to buy extra items must be mitigated to prevent potential hoarding. The purchases must be closely monitored; junk mails and home shopping channels must be blocked for unnecessary temptations. While you care for someone with dementia, it is important that you remain compassionate. What seems to be useless for us may be a precious item for someone else. Thus, managing hoarding behaviors in seniors with dementia may be challenging but not impossible. Empathy and interaction can work wonders while handling such situations.


If you are interested in learning more about in-home care services for yourself or for a loved one in need of daily assistance, the expert caregivers at Comfort Keepers can help. Please feel free to contact us today at (610) 543-6300.

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Comfort Keepers Springfield PA and King of Prussia PA offices provide in-home or in-facility care to anyone over age 18 who is sick, disabled or elderly in communities in Delaware County, PA, Montgomery and the Main Line. Our senior care services and disabled adult assistance include but are not limited to: showering, bathing, assist to bathroom, incontinence, light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, incidental transportation to doctor, grocery shopping, errands and much more!