Health Watch/Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice/Paula Huls RN, BSN, CHPN

Spring is usually the time people give their homes a good cleaning. Although this year I can say that I started my “spring cleaning” during one of our last late snow storms. I am sure other people are doing the same thing this time of year when I see and hear more announcements in the newspaper and on the radio for upcoming garage sales. Spring cleaning has its benefits such as helping you feel more relaxed and in control of your living space, it helps you to take inventory of items that you want to keep and get rid of those that you don’t and it’s a great work out- you will burn off extra calories cleaning out your garage or basement. It’s normal to accumulate extra “stuff” every year, but there comes a point when too much stuff in your home becomes a problem- it even may become a serious health condition known as hoarding.

Hoarding: Buried Alive has become a popular television series on TLC Network. Maybe you have already watched it. The show has episodes of people who live in deplorable conditions with clutter, even excessive garbage, insects and rodents. Most often families in these situations are shown as overwhelmed, and trying to rescue their loved ones from being “buried alive” in debris.

What is hoarding?

Hoarding is defined as the accumulation of and failure to discard possessions that would be deemed of limited or no value to others; excessive clutter that prevents normal activities, for which rooms were designed, and significant distress or impairment in functions as a result of this accumulation. Hoarding is considered one of eight criteria for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and extreme hoarding would meet the full criteria for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Many elderly hoarders suffer from serious ongoing health problems, and they rarely seek medical attention. If they do, they often present with signs of self-neglect, overall poor hygiene-(smell, itchy skin lice, etc.) dehydration and malnutrition. As health care providers, we can help assess, intervene, and encourage the patient to address this complicated health threat. Health care providers -especially home health nurses are often the first to notice the problem and begin a dialog about hoarding. A good resource on the causes of hoarding, assessment and interventions can be found at the Portal of Geriatric Online education at . If you have questions or need more information ask your health care provider or call Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice at 337-5700.

Editor’s note:?Paula Huls is an intake nurse at Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice