New hope for help with hoarding


Remember Sara Cynthia Sylvia Stout? She’s not the only one with trash issues. But thanks to the revised DSM-5, there may be help for hoarders.

My boss constantly reminds me to sort challenges into two piles: those you can control and those you can’t. See the manageable ones through to completion. Triple-check your paper trail on the rest and keep your head down when the shit hits the fan. At least that’s my interpretation.

For a long time I considered Grandma’s reluctance to get rid of anything a manageable issue. When dirty rags piled up in the bathroom, I threw them in the laundry. We skipped items on her grocery list when she already had plenty. One of us ran the vacuum every few weeks and knocked down some cobwebs. She always shooed us away before we were finished, but we left things cleaner than they would have otherwise been. You know what they say–compromise means nobody is happy. That certainly applies to Grandma and me.

Lately I’ve started cleaning more aggressively, and Grandma has reacted in kind. I organize her groceries on easy-to-reach shelves; she steals cat treats off the shelf and hides them in drawers. I clear trash from her bookcase; she accuses me of stealing her flashlight. I lecture her about the smelly “emergencies only” hospital toilet she keeps a few feet away; she turns it into a full-blown Johnny on the Job. I’m resigned to her excuses for peeing in the living room, but I am not OK with her pooping in a bucket by choice, rather than necessity. “That’s what hobos on trains do, Grandma,” I scolded. “Not people with indoor plumbing less than 20 feet away.” I threatened to confiscate the toilet, and she promised to do her business in the bathroom.

Maybe, I think as I’m cleaning out a newly found stash of trash, I can’t manage this. I share my fears with my best friend, and she tells me hoarding was just added to the DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s official manual of mental health diagnoses. This means treatment and possibly insurance coverage is now available for Grandma’s disorder. And that’s good news for us both.

Even if treatment is available, it’s not going to solve all of our issues. And there are hoops to jump through and red tape to cross–e.g. securing power of attorney–before I can even find out whether Grandma’s insurance provides coverage. But hope is the thing with feathers. And as long as I have it, caring for Grandma at home where she wants to be is a challenge I can handle.

Image credit: fotoruhrgebiet / 123RF Stock Photo


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