Is Assisted Living an Option for a Hoarding Parent?

In the fast-paced world of the 21st century, you may be like many adult children with an aging parent and live hundreds of miles from your mother or father. You understandably worry about your senior parent and want the best for your mother or father. Unfortunately, you may be like hundreds of adult children of parents in their senior years who discover that your mother or father has been engaging in hoarding behavior or may even have an actual case of clinical hoarding disorder. As happens with other people finding themselves in this justifiably shocking position, you may wonder what steps you can take to control your parent’s hoarding behavior and get them on a pathway to a healthier lifestyle and safe living environment. You may wonder whether assisted living is an option for your parent with hoarding behavior or hoarding disorder.

What Is Hoarding Disorder? What Is Hoarding Behavior?

While you may have some ideas about hoarding, having discovered that your aging parent has been engaged in this activity, you likely are like most of us and initially really do not know the details of this behavior and of the clinical mental health condition. Therefore, it is important for us to have a discussion surrounding what hoarding disorder is and what hoarding behavior is.

Hoarding disorder is defined as:

Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distresses at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.

– Mayo Clinic

If you’ve discovered that your senior parent does have a hoarding disorder, you have witnessed the impact this mental health condition can have on the home of your mother or father and on his or her life more generally. You likely have already begun to experience the severe distress your parent experiences when the need to eliminate the hoarded objects is broached with your mother or father. Later in this article, we do discuss how you can be of practical help to a parent with hoarding disorder as well as a mother or father engaged in hoarding behavior but who does not have the clinical mental health condition (yet).

Hoarding behavior is something of a lite version of being a hoarder. We do not mean to sound cavalier in making this statement. But there is a good deal of truth to contrasting a person with hoarding behavior against an individual diagnosed with the actual clinical disorder as being something of a lite version of a hoarder.

A person who demonstrates hoarding behavior does accumulate inappropriate amounts of objects, items, and stuff. However, when faced with the prospect of eliminating or discarding accumulated things, an individual who is engaged in hoarding behavior will not face the same overwhelming emotional response at the thought of throwing or giving hoarded items away.

In reality, this is a significant distinction. In the end, helping a senior parent who is engaged in hoarding behavior and who has not developed a clinical hoarding disorder can be an easier task for your mother and father and for you.

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a type of senior living or long-term care community that is designed to optimize the independence of an individual in their Golden Years while providing them with the level of assistance they need to tend to such matters as activities of daily living. For example, a resident of an assisted living community will provide living quarters in the form of an apartment or a room. In addition, a resident is provided with healthy meals and access to different types of programming and activities.

A specific care plan is created for an individual resident of an assisted living community that might include assistance with matters that include:

  • Transportation
  • Medication management
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Bathing

How Do I Help My Hoarding Parent?

If your parent is afflicted with hoarding disorder, you can provide assistance to your mother or father in a number of crucial ways:

  • First, you can be helpful to a parent with hoarding disorder by being supportive and understanding. Do not be judgmental or critical.
  • Second, you can provide assistance to your parent with hoarding disorder by helping them make arrangements to clean up the hoarding clutter. These process needs to be done at your parent’s own pace and with an understanding that even the suggestion of cleaning up the residence and throwing away hoarded items can be emotionally intense for your mother or father. You will want to consider retaining the services of an experienced, reputable hoarder property cleanup company.
  • Finally, you will want to gently encourage your parent with hoarding disorder or hoarding behavior to seek appropriate mental health assistance and support. Some counselors and therapists specialize in working with individuals with hoarding disorder and associated issues. The reality is that people with hoarding disorder who do not obtain appropriate mental health assistance nearly always relapse back into hoarding behavior after an initial attempt is made to get the residence back in order.

Will My Mother or Father, Who Has Been Hoarding, Qualify for Assisted Living?

A burning question you may have is whether or not your mother or father can qualify to reside in an assisted living community after they have been hoarding in their private residence. The simple, short answer to this question is: “It depends.”

An assisted living community is not equipped to provide services to individuals actively engaged in hoarding behavior. There are a number of reasons why this is permitted, which include the negative impact such behavior has on other residents.

Having said that, if your parent obtained professional assistance to address hoarding disorder, the fact that your mother or father engaged in hoarding behavior previously is not likely to preclude him or her from admission to an assisted living community. There may be a firm request (or requirement) that your parent continue obtaining therapy for hoarding disorder as a prerequisite to moving into an assisted living community. Having said that, continuing therapy would be to your parent’s benefit whether or not he or she desires to move into assisted living.