Help For Hoarders

Posted by – Dale Mathes, Code Enforcement Officer

On April 29th, Senior Director Karen Adcock, Senior Code Enforcement Officer Darren Darge and I attended a seminar presented by the Tri-County Hoarding Task Force at Waltonwood Lakeside Assisted Living Center in Sterling Heights. The seminar was co-facilitated by Terrence Shulman and Joanne Cruz, two very experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the field. The purpose of the half day seminar was “understanding and treating hoarding disorder.”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines hoarding disorder, in part, as “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with personal possessions, even those of apparent useless or limited value, due to strong urges to save items, distress and/or indecision with discarding.”

Time magazine in 2010 estimated that there are six to 15 million hoarders in the U.S.  Typically a hoarder is over 50, very secretive or defensive, and has limited awareness about the problem.  Common misconceptions about hoarders is that they are financially disadvantaged, uneducated, dirty, lack willpower and don’t want help.

Waltonwood Assisted Living Center in  Sterling Heights

Waltonwood Lakeside – Assisted Living Center in Sterling Heights

When helping a hoarder, being patient, non-judgmental and empathetic are key.  Involuntary clean ups may hurt the situation more than help, causing the hoarder to increase collecting.  One strategy that can help is to convince the hoarder to clean up gradually, starting with the easiest space first and using achievable time lines.  In some cases, just clearing out entrances, exits, heat vents and electrical outlets can at least make the area safer, especially for older persons.

If you know or suspect a neighbor, friend or loved one may be hoarding, you can get information and advice by contacting the Tri-County Hording Task Force at 313-833-1300 ext. 18.  A little understanding and information can go a long way to help a hoarder.