• Gaynor Lowndes

Supporting People Caught Up In Squalor And Hoarding


While media articles often draw our attention to the issue of hoarding, many people still don’t know how to help loved ones who are hoarders and could be in danger as a result. Understanding why people hoard can make it easier to help them, and knowing that HomeCare Australia offers resources to assist can


turn a scary and often daunting situation into one that’s easier to deal with.


Recognizing the behavior There are many reasons why people hoard and as a result, end up living in squalor. Hoarding occurs when an individual has a hard time throwing away or parting with their possessions. Some people even experience extreme anxiety when faced with the decision to let go of something, and consequently, items continually accumulate in the home. These items may be anything – newspapers, magazines, food, clothing, bags, boxes and much more. The thinking behind such behaviour is usually “I may need it someday.” Not surprisingly, people who have lived through hardships, such as war, are most prone to such behaviour. Inability to resist a bargain or turn down free items only exacerbates the problem.

It is important to recognize the signs when trying to determine if your loved one is a hoarder. The first sign is stress or anxiety. Normally, people who have a tendency to hoard often experience a lot of emotional stress as a result of their possessions. They get anxious when they try to throw something away because they worry they might need it someday or that the item would become valuable. Another sign is the lack of organisation – they have so many possessions that they no longer have space to put them, but still hold on to everything. They can be embarrassed by their items, but also suspicious when others try to touch their belongings.



Implications of hoarding Hoarding can have a very negative effect on those who engage in the behavior and those surrounding them. Many people lose significant amounts of living space because they have so many items filling up all surfaces of their home. As a result of such clutter,


there can be health hazards such as dirt build up, tripping over items, piles of items falling on someone, or even emergency services finding it difficult to gain entry when they need to enter the home.

Most commonly however, hoarding leads to living in squalor. It can also impact on relationships with loved ones or a spouse, and cause social isolation. Many people are embarrassed by their behavior and thus don’t want to invite friends into their homes. Other times, one spouse is not a hoarder and discord can occur when they try to help or throw items away. Ultimately, the quality of life for hoarders and those around them diminish significantly if the behavior is not addressed.



How to Help Once you are able to determine that your client or loved one is a hoarder, try to help the person see the problem and the potential hazards. Let them know that you are there for them and that they really do not need all the stuff. The next step would be to work with them to get rid of the stuff. Start with the easiest things – such as that can of tomato soup that expired six years ago or that stack of newspaper that hasn’t been touched in 20 years. Having a professional help such as Home Care Australia to clean a home can make it that much easier to recover. HomeCare Australia offers in home services that can help hoarders get their lives on track, by helping to clean their home and to work with their case managers / family members to stay on top of the problem. ​ Patience and understanding go a long way when helping someone caught up in hoarding, but having support can make a world of difference in turning the situation around. Start small, with clearly identified goals; with dedication, things can significantly improve.

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