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Can Dementia Affect Housekeeping & Cause Hoarding?

Are you retiring, getting older, or perhaps downsizing? During these times, our habits and routines can undergo big changes, impacting all aspects of our lives. Right at Home, Australia's premier support at home, home care packages provider, shares some insights.

As lifestyles change, some older adults can find it hard to maintain a clean and orderly home. This could be due to a range of reasons from physical limitations to psychological or cognitive conditions such as dementia.

In some cases, hoarding behaviours can also emerge. Hoarding is characterised by the excessive collection of items and an inability to discard them, even if they have little or no value. It is important for family caregivers to understand these challenges and know how to help their loved ones to maintain a healthy living environment.

The Link Between Dementia and Housekeeping Habits

According to Health Direct, hoarding may be due to mobility problems, intellectual impairment or the development of dementia, and mental health problems. 

Dementia, a condition marked by memory loss and cognitive decline, can significantly affect a person’s ability to keep up with daily routines such as housekeeping. In fact, a noticeable change in how someone manages household tasks may be one of the early signs of dementia. They might start forgetting to clean, paying less attention to personal hygiene, or even hoarding items leading to excessive clutter. Hiding and/or hoarding household items can be a sign someone is trying to maintain control of their living situation. 

Why Does This Happen?

The brain changes caused by dementia can make it hard for individuals to plan, organize, and complete tasks. For some, recognising the need to clean or organise is not as obvious as it used to be. In other cases, the motivation to keep their living space tidy diminishes. Moreover, hoarding or accumulating clutter could be linked to memory problems, where the person feels a strong attachment to objects they believe hold significant memories.

Understanding Why Seniors May Neglect Cleaning

Aside from dementia, there are several reasons why seniors might stop cleaning as well as they used to:

  • Physical limitations. Health issues like arthritis or impaired mobility can make cleaning physically challenging.
  • Vision problems. Poor eyesight can result in missing spots while cleaning or not noticing dirt and clutter.
  • Depression. This is a common but often overlooked condition in older adults and it can sap their motivation and energy, making even simple tasks seem overwhelming.
  • Lack of routine. Retirement and the absence of a daily routine can disrupt cleaning schedules that were once part of everyday life.
  • Hoarding behaviours. For some seniors, hoarding items can create significant clutter and hygiene issues. This behaviour often stems from emotional attachments to possessions, the fear of losing memories, or cognitive impairments that make it difficult to part with items.

How To Help Seniors with Housekeeping

Recognising the challenges is the first step.

Here are several ways to support your friend or loved one in maintaining their home:

  • Offer support without judgment. Approach the topic gently, showing understanding and empathy. Offer your help in organizing and cleaning, making it a shared activity rather than a chore.
  • Simplify cleaning tasks. Break down cleaning tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Consider creating a checklist or schedule that outlines simple daily and weekly tasks.
  • Modify the home environment. Make cleaning easier by organizing the living space more efficiently. Remove excess furniture or clutter that makes cleaning difficult. Consider installing grab bars in key areas to assist with mobility. These steps can also reduce the risk of falls.
  • Hire professional help. If individual or family support is not enough, professional cleaning services or a domestic assistance carer from Right at Home might be necessary. There are also professional organisers and senior move managers who specialize in helping people declutter their homes safely and effectively.
  • Use technology. There are numerous gadgets and tools designed to make cleaning easier for those with physical limitations. Lightweight vacuum cleaners, robotic vacuums, and long-handled tools can be incredibly helpful.
  • Address hoarding directly. If hoarding is a concern, engage in compassionate conversations about the importance of decluttering for safety and health. Gradual decluttering strategies and professional assistance from mental health or senior care specialists can be crucial.

Remember to start this conversation thoughtfully. The older person may not realise or think they have a problem. They may also interpret your questions or comments as criticism. Tread carefully.

It Is Not Just About a Clean Home

The decline in housekeeping habits among seniors, whether due to dementia, physical limitations, or hoarding, is a complex issue that requires a compassionate and multifaceted approach. By understanding the underlying causes and offering support and resources, Right at Home can help older loved ones maintain their dignity, independence, and quality of life. Many of the domestic support at home services can be covered by a government funded home care package for which Right at Home is an approved provider. 

Remember, the goal is not just keeping a clean house, it is about ensuring a safe, comfortable, and healthy living environment for our loved ones. 

Keep up to date with COVID 19 information on the following links: 

Australian Government Department of Health 

Victorian Health and Human Services 

NSW Health 

Queensland Health 

ACT Health 

WA Department of Health 

Tasmanian Department of Health 

Northern Territory Department of Health 

SA Health 

Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care, and assistance to seniors (elderly and aged care), and any adult who needs our care at home including adults living with a disability who want to continue to live independently or age in their home. Right at Home is your local expert for issues related to caring for your loved ones and is dedicated to keeping you informed about home care. With no package management fees, Right at Home allows you to get more care from your package or budget. 

Right at Home is a 'My Aged Care' government approved, home care provider for levels 1 – 4 and offers flexible in-home care services such as nursing care, after hospital care, post-operative care, respite care, dementia and Alzheimer's care. Right at Home also offers assistance with daily living and personal care such as grooming, hygiene, transport, shopping, meal prep, domestic services and social support, so your loved one can enjoy a more independent, vibrant life. Our nurses and caregivers are screened, highly trained, and insured prior to entering your home so you can trust us with the caregiving while you focus on your loved one. 

To find out more, please give us a call on 1300 363 802 or visit our website. 

Right at Home Offices in Australia: ACT & Queanbeyan; ACT Canberra; Adelaide Central; Brisbane Bayside; Brisbane North; Brisbane South; Brisbane West; Central Queensland & Wide Bay; Central West New South Wales; Darling Downs; Far North Queensland; Gold Coast North; Gold Coast South; Gosford; Greater Logan; Hunter & Port Stephens; Ipswich Lockyer Valley; Kalgoorlie Wheatbelt; Macarthur Penrith; Mackay; Melbourne Brighton: Melbourne Glen Waverley; Melbourne North; Moreton Bay Region; Newcastle; Noosa, Gympie & Hinterland; North Queensland; Northern Rivers; Padstow St George; Perth Midland; Perth Northern Suburbs; Perth South Eastern Suburbs; Perth West Coast; Southern NSW; Southwest Victoria; Sunshine Coast; Sydney Central & Eastern Suburbs; Sydney Five Dock; Sydney Inner West; Sydney Liverpool; Sydney Lower North Shore; Sydney Northern Beaches; Sydney Norwest; Sydney Parramatta; Sydney Ryde; Sydney Sutherland Shire; Sydney The Hills; Sydney Upper North Shore 

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