Television shows have certainly increased our awareness of hoarding.  At an extreme, hoarding can have a negative effect on property values and pose a health and hazard risk.  Hoarders themselves can also encounter all sorts of financial issues.  Some hoarding occurs because of hyper-consumerism placing personal finances under pressure.  Some hoarding may occur through obsessive retention of items such as mail, newspapers and trash, creating unlivable homes.   Baffling is the low level of awareness many hoarders have about their living conditions and their impact on others.

You may have noticed some hoarding behaviours appearing in an aging relative or friend.  Hoarding in an older adult who was not previously a hoarder is likely a sign of a serious problem and should not be ignored.  Issues may range from loneliness and isolation, managed through excessive engagement in the buying process, or it could even indicate an onset of dementia.

 “Acquisition on steroids”

If you are noticing an increasing velocity and volume of purchases, including ‘club’ buying where a new item is issued monthly, you need to get involved right away.  These actions could be indicating a cognitive problem.  Navigating how to offer help is tricky because of the fine line between assisting the individual and inappropriately restricting their rights.  Although resolution for each case is unique there are some general approaches to consider:

  1. Limiting the individual’s credit card access or credit limits;
  2. Determining, where possible, if any of the credit card charges are unauthorized.  This can be tricky if the card holder is experiencing some cognitive decline.  If you are concerned about charges on the credit card, especially large or repetitive amounts, contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada for guidance http://www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca/eng/consumers/creditcard/transunauthoriz/index-eng.asp;
  3. Returning unused and unopened items for a refund.
  4. Remain aware of paperwork and mail that may indicate a lapse in bill payment.  The hoarder’s attention may be focused on their purchases to the detriment of the rest of their life.  Their messy surroundings make it much easier to miss overdue bills including property tax and insurance.
  5. If a contract has been entered into by the hoarder, cancelling it may be difficult.   If you think there may be cognitive declines, contact a physician for assistance in proving that the contract was signed by a person who is no longer able to make financial and legal decisions of that sort.

The financial implications of hoarding can be devastating.  It can be a minefield where there is loss of money, self-esteem and health.  Swift involvement and support is needed.

*photo by gourmasia via Pixabay