Understanding Hoarding & Diogenes Syndrome in Seniors

Understanding Hoarding & Diogenes Syndrome in Seniors

Diogenes Syndrome, also known as Senile Squalor Syndrome, is a behavioural disorder that can affect many seniors.

As we grow older and pass through various stages of our lives, we accumulate physical belongings to which we may become emotionally attached through simple fondness or association to memories. The things we own can become truly and deeply valuable to us, but it is also possible for individuals to take their tendency to collect and hold onto objects to an unhealthy place. Diogenes Syndrome, also known as Senile Squalor Syndrome, is a behavioural disorder that some seniors will face that manifests through hoarding, lifestyle, and cleanliness behaviours that can be damaging to both physical and mental health. Educating oneself on the potential behaviours that come along with Diogenes Syndrome, and the ways that the associated safety concerns can be addressed, can help to keep the seniors of the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area safe and healthy.

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Why Seniors?

The interaction that can occur between various biological, environmental and situational elements of older age mean that a larger number of seniors are more disposed to participating in hoarding and other behaviours connected to Diogenes Syndrome. Physiologically speaking, some health conditions, such as dementia and impairment of the brain’s frontal lobe, can contribute to hoarding behaviours, as can certain genetic predispositions. On the other hand, alternate factors like traumatic events, feelings of isolation, lack of stimulation, and aspects related to elements of day-to-day life, can create or amplify these behaviours.

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Behaviours Connected to Diogenes Syndrome

Diogenes Syndrome can be expressed in numerous ways, degrees, and levels of intensity depending on the individual circumstances of the senior in question. Some of the unhealthy behaviours that can be symptoms connected to Diogenes Syndrome may include:

• Apathy

• Compulsive Hoarding of Items/Objects

• Detachment

• Distorted Sense of Reality

• Distrust of Others

• Domestic Uncleanliness

• Lack of Shame

• Laziness

• Lethargy

• Neglect of Self-Care

• Social Withdrawal

• Unwillingness to Accept Help

Practical Tips for Clutter Busting Your Life

Tidying Up and Clearing Out

For seniors who have opted to continue living within their own homes, a safe, clear, and clean environment is extremely important for facilitating and maintaining a proper state of health and wellbeing. Whether a senior has simply accumulated a few too many belongings, or whether they have a severe case of Diogenes Syndrome, it is imperative that work take place to clean up, clear things out, and create a safe and comfortable space in which seniors can reside. Taking on the role of sorting through someone’s belongings and determining what to keep, what to toss, and how to arrange the items that are to remain, can be a difficult task under any circumstances. Here are some tips that may help to make the process a little easier:

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Getting started is the most important step.

Get Clean and Set Up: Once clutter and hoarded items have been downsized and dealt with, make use of the opportunity to make a fresh start by getting everything clean, and setting up the home in a way that will be most favourable for senior health.

Get Help: Particularly in circumstances where seniors have accumulated a huge number of items within their homes, clearing through all the clutter can be too overwhelming a job for one person to take on. Try recruiting family or friends to work together as a team to get through more or delegate tasks to create efficiency.

Go Room by Room: Break the job up into smaller parts, rather than approaching it as one huge task, in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Consider each room independently from the others, starting with one and not moving on to another until its work has been completed. This will not only help to create natural breaking points, but will also make progress more visible and, therefore, more easy to celebrate.

Make Time: Decide how best to manage time to get through everything that needs to be done. Whether you would rather choose one day to tackle everything at once, or if breaking it up into smaller jobs over multiple days would be better; set a deadline, make a plan, and get organized.

Organize Systematically: Creating and sticking to a stable and consistent system and decision making process for all items can help to make the process occur with more ease, and can help keep the physical space more organized. Having assigned categories or piles for items such as ‘keep’, ‘trash’, ‘donate’, and ‘store’, as well as specific criteria by which to decide which category an item will end up in will be a major help.

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Living clutter free is safer and uplifting.

The nature of Diogenes Syndrome makes it so that the process of trying to make seniors understand the severity of their situation and the need for change is a challenging one. It is always helpful to remember, throughout all the challenges, that while the process will not be easy and the upkeep will take work, all of the effort is in pursuit of setting up a safer and cleaner environment in which seniors can live their best lives.


Contact us today for a Free Nurse Consultation to discuss how our Home Care Service in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge can help you or a loved one with Diogenes Syndrome and Hoarding.