Ask Amy: Hoarding around the house causes stress | Health
Dear Amy: My spouse (D) and I have been married (second marriages) for 25 years. We have adult children and grandchildren and are a very happy family.
D is a paper collector. It accumulates in a big pile because D is unable to make decisions.
D’s little office is a maze of stacks of paper falling and sliding across the floor. The shelves are full.
Because the desk is basically unusable, the dining room table becomes a replacement desk.
Our basement is filled with moldy boxes, mostly filled with paper.
Under the beds and an unused bedroom are also filling up.
I plan the paper elsewhere in the house, putting it in D’s office to keep the other rooms clear. I intercept mail so I can throw away junk mail immediately.
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Addressing this elicits a lot of anger or passive resistance.
We have hired organizers, but my experience is that the current piles get thinner and file (slowly and over days), but there is no simultaneous recycling and the piles just grow back.
D experiences a lot of frustration when it is impossible to find the necessary items, and often important documents or mail disappear in the piles, bills go unpaid, etc.
I need advice on how to help with this and protect myself and our home from the avalanche of paper. I worry about fire and bugs, but more about D’s happiness.
Dear Buried: Any “decluttering” will only provide temporary respite, but the good news is that “D” is somewhat cooperative, although you can see the anxiety caused by both the problem and its consequences.
Hoarding disorder (HD) is a severe and persistent disorder that has been linked to anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
You and D should switch all of your accounts to online access, so that your bill-paying, utility, banking, and retirement accounts are accessible to both of you at all times — and paperless. This will reduce the amount of paper coming into the house and should allow both of you to pay your bills, which will greatly reduce frustration.
You shouldn’t shame or blame D, but recognize hoarding as a serious challenge. Some hoarders respond to a “harm reduction” strategy, rather than a simple focus on disposing of items: “I’m worried about the fire. Can we work together to reduce the paper by a third so reduce the risk to our home?
Two useful resources for family members of hoarders: Hoarding.iocdf.org and the book “Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring”, by two clinicians dealing with this family challenge: Michael A. Tompkins and Tamara L. Hartl (2009, New Harbinger).
Dear Amy: I will soon be 75 years old.
I am in good physical and mental health.
This week I spent a grueling 90 minutes with my dental hygienist.
It was grueling because she spoke to me using a condescending and condescending tone and language. I interpret this as ageism and the language of the elders.
I felt belittled, belittled and angry.
She has been my hygienist for years and she is excellent. She may not even realize what she is doing.
I wanted to say something, but part of me says these are little potatoes on the plate of life. But I’m afraid to see her again.
As a registered nurse, I am also a healthcare professional. How we talk to the people we care for is important. We need to communicate respectfully.
Dear No Plate: It’s almost impossible to respond verbally when you’re having your teeth cleaned. And I agree on the little potatoes on the plate of life.
However, you have already expressed your concern about your next appointment.
This has an impact on your health.
You should contact the office manager and/or practice owner.
Give your hygienist all the praise she deserves, then accurately describe your experience at your last appointment.
The dental office should retrain all staff on how to communicate effectively with patients.
Dear Amy: As a psychologist for 40 years, I would like to congratulate you on your excellent response to “Wondering”, which was abused by her sister as a child.
Your list of therapy benefits was very comprehensive.
I would add just one more: if triggered in the present by anything that causes intrusive thoughts, memories, or images of past abuse, there are cognitive-behavioral strategies to eliminate or reduce them.
Dear Alan: Thank you for your participation.
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.