Hoarding is psychological condition more often associated with older individuals than younger adults. As a consequence, the health risks posed to elderly hoarders actually are greater than presented to men and women of younger ages. Indeed, there are seven significant health dangers most commonly associated with elderly people who hoard:
- Emotional and mental health issues associated with isolation
- Fall Injuries
- Illness caused by pathogens
Depression is another health danger associated with hoarding disorder for a senior. Depression can be associated with hoarding disorder in one of two primary ways:
First, depression can be a precursor to hoarding disorder, a contributing factor to the condition.
Second, depression can be an outgrowth of hoarding disorder. In other words, a person ends up suffering from depression after the start of a hoarding affliction.
Anxiety represents another mental health condition that can end up impacting a senior citizen who hoards. As is the case with depression, general anxiety can be a precursor or a symptom of hoarding disorder.
PTSD is another health issue that can impact a senior who hoards. Researchers have identified PTSD as a contributing factor to the development of hoarding disorder for some people. In other words, individuals who experienced a traumatic event may develop PTSD which is then followed by the onset of hoarding disorder.
There are also instances in which PTSD arises from hoarding disorder. Individuals with hoarding disorder have a strong connection to the items they collect. A hoarder can continuously feel at risk or threatened. This can amount to trauma for an elderly hoarder which can develop into a case of PTSD.
Emotional and Mental Health Issues Associated With Isolation
One of the most profound effects of hoarding disorder is that a person with this mental health affliction oftentimes ends up living life in isolation. This particularly is the case when the individual with hoarding disorder is an older person – as oftentimes is the case.
A person who hoards rarely permits a person into his or her house. This determination not to let another into his or her residence is because that individual is ashamed of his or her living situation. On another note, a person with hoarding disorder may elect not to let anyone into his or her house because he or she perceives them as a threat to the items being hoarded.
In addition to not allowing people into his or her home, a person with hoarding disorder may also not go out into public very often. In short, the sense of isolation of a hoarder can be significant, even profound. Isolation can result in an array of different types of health challenges, many of which are discussed elsewhere in this article.
Older people are more prone to falling than is the case with their younger counterparts. In addition, when an older individual falls, it is far more likely that the person will sustain more significant injuries than would a younger individual.
As hoarding progresses in a residence, the house becomes all the more hazardous. Objects of different types end up “stored” in the residence in a very haphazard fashion. The presence of these recklessly stowed items present a very significant hazard to an older person. With alarming regularity, an elderly person falls as a result of the presence of the haphazardly stowed items collected and amassed by a senior citizen who hoards.
Illness Caused by Pathogens
Oftentimes, when hoarding occurs, a residence can harbor biohazards. For example, as hoarding progresses, dangerous substances can be a part of the hoard. This can include biological waste like rotting food, feces, and urine.
These types of biohazardous substances can contain dangerous pathogens that have the potential to cause serious and even fatal illnesses. Older individuals are more susceptible to more serious outcomes when exposed to different types of biohazards and pathogens contained in that waste.
A highly inappropriate diet can arise out of hoarding disorder afflicting an elderly person. In point of fact, a poor diet can progress to the point that a person with hoarding disorder actually suffers from malnutrition. There are a number of reasons why malnutrition can result from hoarding disorder:
First, a person with this disorder can become so focused on the process of hoarding that he or she fails to maintain a proper diet.
Second, over time and as a hoard grows, appliances in a hoarder’s residence become unavailable or inoperable. Without a functioning refrigerator or stove a person is not in a position to follow a healthy diet.
These various health dangers for seniors with hoarding disorder underscore the importance of obtaining appropriate support and assistance for an individual in this position. Indeed, his or her very life may depend upon it.