Everyone’s home becomes messy from time to time, but knowing when a living space crosses the line into hoarding can be difficult.
Hoarding occurs when a home becomes so cluttered that it negatively affects a person’s life and health. Hoarding, often considered an obsessive compulsive disorder, is estimated to affect up to 6 percent of the population, or 19 million Americans.
But, how do friends and family know when a loved one has a hoarding problem or is developing hoarder tendencies?
Here’s what you need to know about the 5 stages of hoarding to help you identify whether a loved one has a hoarding disorder and what the severity of it is.
To view an infographic of these 5 stages, click here to view below.
At this stage, family members may not be able to recognize that their loved one is experiencing hoarder tendencies. The household environment is considered standard, meaning:
Bottom Line: You may notice some clutter, but overall, it isn’t impacting how the home is used or the health of the resident.
At this stage, hoarding tendencies become more obvious to a visitor. You will notice there is less attention paid to housekeeping, and clutter is beginning to overtake the home. One room may even become a dumping ground.
Other items you may notice include:
Bottom Line: The resident may be aware of the clutter and even embarrassed it, causing them to feel anxious or depressed. Walking through this home may require light personal protective equipment (PPE) as well. This is an important stage for intervening and seeking help, since beyond this stage it becomes more difficult to convince the loved one to accept help.
There is no question there is a hoarding problem at this level. Clutter has begun to overtake the house, and even moved outdoors. Areas that are normally free of clutter, such as hallways or stairwells, now are at least partially blocked.
The house also features:
Bottom Line: The resident likely will experience hygiene issues, and possible health issues from the environment and not eating well. Your loved one may also become defensive if you try to help. A heavier type of PPE is recommended when entering this home, such as gloves and respirator mask.
At this stage, the welfare of the resident is at a critical level. The home has become dangerous because of hazardous conditions that include mold, structural damage to the home and bug infestations. Other conditions at this level include:
Bottom Line: Your loved one’s health may have declined sharply as well, and may even have stopped bathing altogether. Full PPE is advised at this point, including respirator masks, disposable coveralls and safety goggles.
Level 5 is the most serious stage of hoarding. In addition to the conditions outlined in Level 4, someone experiencing this level of a hoarding disorder is likely at rock bottom.
Bottom Line: Loved ones who are experiencing this level of hoarding also may have serious depression, and daily basics such as eating and sleeping are difficult.
This hoarding scale takes into consideration several aspects of what a hoarding situation may look like. This scale is intended as an assessment tool only, and not as a diagnostic tool for psychological evaluation.
Hoarding can quickly go from Level 1 to Level 5, if a family member or friend does not receive help. Understanding where you or a loved one falls on this scale may help you take the first step toward getting needed help.
It is important to intervene prior to getting to Levels 4 and 5. That is because it is at this point where health and safety become an issue. Often neighbors will complain about odors, excessive pets, and/or pests.
And, you definitely do not want to have to deal with a legal order, if you don’t have to.
But in the event that a legal order does become a factor for you or a family member, you must call in an expert for help. Look for one that has experience, will respond quickly and can help you navigate the legal process.