Hope After Hoarding: How Families Can Move Forward

Hoarding is a clinically recognized, treatable mental health disorder. Much like substance abuse, it affects the entire family—not just the hoarder. Families of hoarders, especially children of hoarders, are more likely to be socially maladjusted, to suffer acute injuries and chronic health problems, and to experience severe familial strain. When it’s time to intervene in hoarding behaviors, calling in bio-clean experts is actually not the first step you should take. Biohazard specialists in Orlando will take care of the home, but first, your loved one needs psychological care.

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Avoiding Hoarding-Related Mistakes

One of the biggest mistakes families of hoarders make is trying to clear out all of the clutter all at once, without the permission of the hoarder. This causes severe emotional distress, won’t treat the mental health disorder, and will damage family relationships. Another common mistake is inadvertently enabling hoarding behavior. Don’t offer to store some items at your home or help move items to a storage unit—it will only worsen the problem. Don’t invite the hoarder to shop with you, and don’t buy tangible items for birthdays and holidays. Instead, give experiences, like restaurant gift cards (not gift cards to retail stores) or a gift certificate for a pedicure.

Getting Help for Hoarding

It isn’t possible to force someone to see a mental health counselor. However, you can visit one yourself. Discuss the problem and ask for solutions. The hoarder may be willing to briefly meet with the counselor outside the home, but it can take a while to build a trusting relationship between the counselor and the hoarder.

Starting the Cleaning Process

The homes of longtime hoarders are typically health hazards. Don’t try to clean it yourself, as you can be exposed to the following:

  • Toxic mold
  • Animal waste
  • Rodent/cockroach infestations
  • Structurally unsafe floors
  • Trip and fall injuries

Instead, hire a biohazard cleaning company that can get the job done safely. Depending on your loved one’s progress with the treatment, you might need to have the cleaners work on just one room at a time. One massive clean-out might be too much emotional distress for your loved one to handle. Ask the mental health specialist for guidance on the best way to schedule the cleanup to minimize stress for your loved one.

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