Research finds link between hoarding and depression in seniors

Moving a parent or loved one out of their long-time home is hard work. Ask anyone who’s worked patiently with a parent as they whittled down their possessions from a lifetime of items tucked away in the back of closets and basements.

Now consider how much more difficult this process becomes when your parent is a hoarder.  

According to research out of the University of California, San Francisco, hoarding gets worse as a person ages. The researchers found that 15 percent of depressed men and women are extreme hoarders.

According to the researchers, the transformation into a hoarder is clear. It starts with a decline in social interactions, typical of the elderly. The loneliness that results leads to behaviours to cope with the isolation and depression. That behaviour can range from collecting odd curios and objects to animals.

But the researchers point to depression as the key factor. So in order to stop people from hoarding, the depression must be treated.

The takeaway from this for that children and friends of the elderly must be on the lookout for symptoms of depression manifested in hoarding activities. And then get their loved ones to understand they are depressed and need treatment. Untreated, the underlying depression connected to hoarding only serves to make any future moves to a new home distressing in the extreme.

When we do planning with our clients, we understand that while the goal is to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible there will come a time when most of us will require care. Such moves are stressful in themselves but factoring in hoarding and the mental illness that underlies it can make a difficult situation almost intolerable.

Here’s hoping that the heightened awareness of hoarding leads to more proactive treatment for those afflicted, much earlier in their lives than later.