Friday, January 29, 2010

Help for Hoarding - The New Old Age Blog -


The volume of comments from readers trying to cope with elders who hoard everything from newspapers to yogurt containers to cats — and from readers struggling with their own hoarding tendencies — has come as something of a surprise to me.

Clearly, more people suffer from this disorder than outsiders might guess, and the stories people have shared have been both fascinating and heartbreaking.

I just wish I had more definitive advice to pass along. “We’re still trying to figure this out,” admitted Catherine Ayers, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and a leading researcher on hoarding.

Some commenters have suggested books and programs they’ve found helpful, and the O.C.D. Foundation’s compulsive hoarding Web site offers both general information and guidance on treatment. Therapists who specialize in obsessive-compulsive disorder probably represent the best bet for hoarders for now, Dr. Ayers said — though it’s unclear whether compulsive hoarding is a variant of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But the current treatment of choice, a combination of cognitive behavior therapy and the antidepressant drugs called S.S.R.I.’s, has limitations. “It works well for folks in midlife,” Dr. Ayers said. “For older people, we suspect some cognitive changes interfere. Some people respond, but it may not work as well.”

Dr. Ayers is mounting a larger treatment study for older adults with hoarding problems (underwritten by the O.C.D. Foundation) and has invited families willing to participate in it to contact her directly:
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