Hoarding & Dementia—Are they related?


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Hey, I’m back with another car video. Why? Because the lighting is good and I can just stick the camera on my dash and call it a day.

So let’s talk about hoarding and dementia. You know, this is kind of a new topic for me. I wouldn’t normally talk about this, but it has come up a few times in the last year or so. And I thought that was interesting. So hoarding is its own thing. Hoarding behavior compulsive hoarding is a disorder that is typically associated with other anxiety disorders and is separate from dementia. So I don’t want you to come away from this video, like, “Well Rachael said that hoarding is a sign of dementia,” or anything like that because it’s not necessarily related at all. However, it can be related. And sometimes what we’ll see is someone who’s living with dementia, especially in early stages who will begin to hoard and families sometimes that’s like sometimes the first thing that they notice is that a loved one is really compulsively keeping things and getting very frustrated when someone tries to take the stuff out of their house.

So it’s not always a sign of dementia, but it can be now what do you do if someone is hoarding and they are living with dementia regardless, actually of whether or not they have dementia. What we don’t wanna do is go into a hoarder’s place of residents and start throwing stuff away or start saying things like you don’t need any of this. I’m going to throw it out. Right. That could really cause a horrible response. Hoarding is typically compulsive hoarding and is in response to a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one. Maybe even a divorce, something traumatic in that person’s life where they feel like they have to hold on to things. They need some sense of control with dementia.

If we see that the person is hoarding, we do, we still do not wanna go in and just go, well, don’t worry. They won’t remember. We’ll just throw everything out. Right? Like that’s not a good solution. What I do recommend doing is bringing in an expert in organizing, right? Bring in someone who’s an expert in organization, actually as a job who has experience working with people who have some compulsive hoarding behaviors and especially dementia, we want to be aware of hoarding, especially when it becomes a safety risk. So if the person can’t get out of their house safely, if there might be a fire, if things in the house could be catching on fire because of all the items, stuff like that, those are reasons we really wanna be on the lookout for these types of behaviors.

So again, is it a sign of dementia? It could be, but it’s not necessarily. But if someone living with dementia is starting to exhibit hoarding behaviors, we still wanna treat it as its own issue, separate from the cognitive impairment. Hope that gave you some useful information and be sure to stay tuned.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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