Hoarding behaviors can present serious health and safety issues for seniors living in affordable housing communities. As an affordable housing property management firm providing housing for seniors, it’s important to Falkenberg/Gilliam & Associates (FGA) to address hoarding in a compassionate yet proactive manner.

Understand the causes of hoarding in seniors

Hoarding is a complex mental health issue, often tied to trauma, loss, loneliness and lack of control. For seniors, declining health and mobility along with life changes like losing a spouse can trigger more severe hoarding. Show empathy and provide support for the deep emotions behind their behaviors.

  • Provide training for staff on the psychology and causes of hoarding
  • Create informational materials for residents that explain hoarding disorder
  • Refer seniors in need, to mental health professionals who specialize in hoarding and OCD

Look for early signs

Notice over-cluttered apartments, narrow pathways, rotting food and pest infestations. Also watch for isolation, lack of visitors or shame over the state of their home. Early intervention can help prevent dangerous hoarding levels.

  • Implement a hoarding screening program for new residents
  • Conduct regular unit inspections to identify early warning signs
  • Train maintenance staff on discreetly spotting hoarding behaviors

Set clear expectations upfront

Have a hoarding policy in your lease explaining tenants must maintain sanitary, clutter-free units for pest control and safety reasons. Explain the policy in person too and express your desire to help residents live their best life in your community.

  • Educate residents on hoarding policies during move-in
  • Follow up with letters reinforcing expectations
  • Offer services to help residents declutter and organize their unit

Offer support and resources

Ask how you can best assist the resident in addressing clutter and organizing their space. Provide referrals to senior counseling services that specialize in hoarding disorders. Bring in social workers and family to create a care plan.

  • Connect residents to professional organizers and cleaning services
  • Arrange for waste and donation pickup services to remove unwanted items
  • Develop an onsite support group for residents struggling with hoarding

Frame decluttering as a health initiative

Make it clear you have the senior’s wellbeing in mind, not just the property’s appearance. Highlight how clearing clutter reduces fall risks and allows emergency medics safe entry if needed. Share how pest control improves overall resident health.

  • Present decluttering guidance from trusted health organizations
  • Emphasize safety, fall prevention and allowing access for care
  • Note pest-related disease risks and the benefits of pest control

Enlist the help of loved ones

With the senior’s consent, alert close family and friends to what’s going on and encourage their involvement. Loved ones can provide emotional support, help sort through possessions, and reinforce the safety messaging.

  • Host an intervention-style meeting with loved ones
  • Suggest loved ones assist with decluttering tasks
  • Ask loved ones to speak with the resident about health/safety

Use a light, collaborative approach

Scolding or mandates can backfire. Instead, suggest working together room-by-room or sorting one area per day. Provide organizational tools like bins and storage units. Make it about regaining control, not having control taken away.

  • Set manageable decluttering goals with the senior
  • Provide organizational supplies and storage options
  • Employ motivational interviewing techniques

Patience is critical

Change won’t happen overnight. Allow adequate time for the resident to adjust while monitoring for health threats. Praise small, positive steps and show you’re in their corner for the long haul.

  • Celebrate small victories and progress
  • Schedule regular follow-up visits and check-ins
  • Seek ongoing counseling and support services

Watch for slip ups and old habits

Hoarding behaviors can return if stressors recur. Gently remind the senior you’re available to help if clutter reaccumulates. Continue providing resources and moral support.

  • Implement periodic unit inspections for recurrent hoarding
  • Address causes of recurring hoarding like depression or loss
  • Affirm your continued commitment to assist the resident

With empathy, patience and the right resources, affordable housing firms can make a real difference for seniors struggling with hoarding. By promoting health, safety and dignity, we enable our residents to age happily within their communities.

Being a HUD Approved property management firm means FGA is committed to assisting building owners understand the needs of their residents. FGA is also a LIHTC property management firm with roots dating back to 1967.

Contact FGA today to learn more about their HUD approved property management solutions.


Skip to content