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Why you don’t need to put hoarders in the too-hard basket

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Catholic Healthcare is here to help provide support for people with hoarding disorder and squalor. 

Many people are under the impression that hoarding and squalor always occur together, which is not the case. It is helpful to appreciate that the two are distinct and require different intervention approaches, says Mercy Splitt, the Hoarding and Squalor Manager in Catholic Healthcare’s Home and Community Services unit.

“Before arranging a clean-up, it is essential to understand the client’s needs and give feedback to the referrer about appropriate psychological and social support,” says Ms Splitt.

People are typically embarrassed about their living circumstances and are unlikely to seek help. However, there are several warning signs GPs, hospital doctors and allied health professionals can look out for.  Symptoms include repeated injuries from falls or items falling onto the patient, musty odour, malnourishment or a deterioration in personal hygiene.

“We’ve had people referred to us who have been sleeping in the car or on the verandah for years because they can’t access their home.  They can’t get into their bathroom or use their kitchen for its intended purpose,” says Ms Splitt.

Ms Splitt says clients are typically receptive to help when managed with empathy. However, instead of going in and getting rid of their items, the care workers take a consultative approach.

“We encourage the client to set the agenda. You can’t force them to get rid of everything that they have hoarded until they are ready. They will just replace everything.” 

The staff are guided by the client in deciding what’s going to stay and what’s going to go.

She says the approach with squalor is faster. Due to the unsanitary conditions and effects on a person’s health, the Care Advisor will arrange for a forensic clean.

“We then work with the client to set up cleaning systems and educate them about routines, supporting new behaviours,” says Ms Splitt.

Ms Splitt is adamant that there is no need to put hoarding and squalor in the too-hard basket. “Everyone deserves to live with dignity, and we have the knowledge and experience to help.”

Feedback from clients and referrers:

“The Catholic Healthcare hoarding and squalor program has allowed our most vulnerable clients to remain living at home safely …” - Toni, Hospital Social Worker

My client is enjoying her ‘new and calm’ environment and is motivated to continue de-cluttering.” – Simonne, Social Worker

“I can now have people over which I could never do before. They actually have somewhere to sit because I have a lounge room again.”’ – Client

"You are the great people that come and help. I am appreciating the difference when the clutter was up to the ceiling" (and is now much better).” – Client

If you would like to gain a better understanding of how we can help your patients with hoarding and squalor or how to declutter their home please visit www.hsru.com.au or call us on 1800 225 474.