Eight Ways to Help Elderly Hoarders

Elderly hoarding, especially if they are a loved one or relative, is a complex issue that requires understanding, compassion, empathy, and careful intervention. Hoarding disorder can affect individuals of all ages, but it often becomes more challenging to manage as people grow older. As family members, friends, or caregivers, it is crucial to approach the situation with empathy and offer the appropriate assistance in a patient and caring way. Here, we will explore eight strategies that can help elderly hoarders regain control of their living spaces and improve their overall well-being.

Educate Yourself About Hoarding Disorder:

In order to do a good job of effectively supporting elderly hoarders, it is essential to educate yourself about hoarding disorder. It’s important to understand that hoarding is not merely a result of laziness or a lack of organizational skills; it is a complex mental health condition that requires sensitivity and understanding. Research the causes, symptoms, and consequences of hoarding to gain some insight into the challenges faced by those experiencing it.

Gain Trust of the Hoarder:

When working with Hoarders, especially the elderly, it is crucial to quickly build a level of trust and understanding. You need to approach the situation with empathy and non-judgment. Be sure to communicate your concerns with care, and emphasize your desire to help rather than criticize them. Offer your support and reassurance, and assure them that you are there to work together towards creating a safer and healthier place to live.

Encourage the Hoarder to Get Professional Help:

If possible, engage the help and assistance of mental health professionals who specialize in hoarding disorder. This step can be immensely beneficial in helping relieve anxiety and change behavior. Encourage the elderly hoarder to seek therapy or counseling to address the underlying emotional and psychological factors that have contributed to their hoarding behavior. Therapists can also provide strategies to manage anxiety, decision-making, and organization skills.

Take a Gradual Decluttering Approach:

The process of decluttering is often very overwhelming for elderly hoarders. A technique that we sometimes use is to take a gradual and systematic approach to the situation. By breaking down the task into smaller, manageable steps, we often find that the hoarder is more receptive to change. Helping the individual prioritize items and categorize them into essentials, sentimental items, and those no longer needed often takes more time, but in most cases results in a more satisfying experience. Be sure to celebrate small victories to motivate them throughout the process.

Try Offering Supportive and Non-Intrusive Intervention:

When assisting with an often overwhelming decluttering task, it is important to remember that the elderly hoarder feels that they are retaining some autonomy and control over their possessions. Avoid removing items without their consent, as this can lead to heightened distress and resistance. Please note that sometimes this is not possible due to the elderly hoarder being hospitalized or in a care facility and unable to return home until the hoarding situation is resolved. Instead of forcing action by the hoarder, encourage the individual to make decisions about what to keep, donate, or discard, and be there to offer guidance when necessary.

Provide Organizational Systems and Storage Solutions:

Help elderly hoarders implement practical organizational systems to prevent future clutter accumulation. Identify appropriate storage solutions such as labeled containers, shelving units, and storage bins to create a sense of order. Be sure that items are easily accessible and well-organized. This will help maintain their ability to maintain a clutter-free living environment.

Safety First:

It is extremely important to address safety concerns when assisting elderly hoarders. Having clear pathways that ensure that exits are unobstructed helps to minimize the risk of falls or accidents. Identify fire hazards and implement appropriate safety measures. Be sure to pay attention to space heaters, extension cords, and overloaded electrical sockets. Work together to create a living environment that promotes safety, comfort, and ease of movement.

Establish a Support Network for the Hoarder:

In most cases, hoarding disorder can be a long-term struggle, so it is crucial to establish a support network for the elderly hoarder. Try connecting with local support groups, hoarding task forces, or community organizations that specialize in hoarding disorders. These resources can offer ongoing support, guidance, and opportunities for the elderly hoarder to connect with others who have experienced and understand their challenges.


Assisting elderly hoarders requires patience, empathy, and a comprehensive understanding of hoarding disorder. By approaching the situation with compassion and implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can make a significant difference in the lives of elderly hoarders. Remember to prioritize their well-being, foster trust, and provide ongoing support to help them regain control over their living spaces and improve their overall quality of life.