Health Issues Behind Hoarding DisordersDec 30, 2020 04:38PM ● By Sheila Julson
According to the American Psychiatric Association, people with a hoarding disorder “excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.”
People with hoarding disorders typically save random items for possible future use. Others hoard items they deem valuable or have sentimental ties. People with hoarding disorders may also feel safe when they are surrounded by the things they save.
Darlene Eager is the founder and owner of DC Eager Emergency Services. DC Eager takes care of water damage, mold removal, lead abatement, sewer backup, odors and clean select demo. She contracts with counselors that work with people who hoard, so she and her crew are frequently called to clean the residences. Excessive accumulation of a variety items, regardless of their value, impacts the life of a person with hoarding disorder and creates dangerous living conditions.
“There are lots of dangers that come along with hoarding,” Eager emphasizes, “first and foremost being the bacteria and disease from living in unsanitary conditions.”
Excessive food, garbage, animal or human feces and urine will result in mold and bacteria, which causes respiratory issues and other health problems. Dust, odors and ammonia from decaying waste products affect the air quality in a hoarder's home. Eager notes that mold is frequently discovered in hoarders’ homes as items are cleared away.
Excessive piles of items can pose trip and fall hazards. Eager adds that it also increases the possibility of death from fire because pathways are frequently obstructed. “Fire spreads quicker throughout the home and can trap people and animals inside.”
In addition, the excess weight of hoarded items can add stress to the structure of a house, making it unstable. Children and animals can be seriously injured from piles of hoarded items falling on top of them. Animals and children can be removed by local authorities from homes with unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Persons with hoarding disorder can also get evicted from properties and face homelessness.
“Many just want the bare minimum done because they feel forced to do something, either because they were released from the hospital and can’t return safely due to their living conditions, or their family is pushing them to make a change.”
Eager believes there’s a counseling component that needs to go with the cleaning, since most hoarding situations she encounters are the result of a tragedy in the person’s life, which makes them want to hold on to everything they can. Her crew takes a compassionate approach toward cleaning the home of persons with hoarding disorders.
“We don’t just barge in and start cleaning and throwing things away, which can be traumatic, and that’s not reality,” she says. “Compassion, empathy and patience are key, along with minimal pressure, with a day-to-day approach to maintaining a sense of control and autonomy for each individual.”
DC Eager Emergency Services, 6 E. Kendig Rd., Willow Street. For more information, call 717-989-5763 or visit DCEager.com.
Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.