Assisting Hands Home Care | Chicago, IL and WI

Our Office Serves:

Call Us at (888) 559-3889 or Submit Contact Form Below

Food Hoarding Among the Elderly


Food hoarding can lead to dangerous life situations, from food poisoning to attracting disease-causing rodents. A senior may start to hoard food for any number of reasons, and family members should pay attention when they suspect an elderly loved one is accumulating excess food products.

What is hoarding?

Food Hoarding Among the ElderlyHoarding is a disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. People who hoard have difficulty throwing out possessions, which then leads to disastrous levels of cluttering in the home. Ultimately, a hoarder’s home is unlivable due to the large quantities of collected items. People may hoard food, miscellaneous goods or even animals. A hoarding disorder is most common among the elderly, who are three times more likely to hoard than younger adults. An estimated two to six percent of the population is affected by a hoarding disorder.

What are the consequences of hoarding?

Hoarding is known to cause a series of problems in the senior’s life. Relationship troubles can result, as well as problems with social activities. Environmental problems surface, including fire hazards and trip hazards. Items piled to the ceiling can fall and injure the homeowner or visitors. Relationships with family members become strained. The hoarding senior is likely to experience conflict with other family members and consequently feel isolated and lonely. An elderly individual who hoards will not be willing to allow others entry into the home.

What are the consequences of food hoarding?

Food hoarding is extremely hazardous to a senior’s health. Products gathered and tucked away in the pantry can spoil, leading to food poisoning if the senior consumes them. Food poisoning among the elderly is even more critical because of their weaker immune systems. Consuming foods, especially meats and dairy products, that are well beyond their expiration dates can result in a host of diseases. Seniors have a greater risk of contracting serious illnesses, like E. coli, botulism, salmonella, and listeria, after eating contaminated or spoiled foods. An excess of expired food items in the home attracts bugs and rodents. Rats and mice spread dozens of diseases. Seniors with rodents in their home can contract diseases directly through contact with the animals’ urine, feces, saliva, or bites. Rodents infected with mites and ticks also spread disease. In addition to expired foods, rotting foods and decayed meats are serious health hazards. While decayed meat attracts vermin, it also leads to severe infestations by maggots, roaches, and other pests. Infestations like these are common in the households of seniors who hoard food. Food hoarding causes further environmental safety concerns. Piles of canned foods can topple, leading to the senior or guests becoming injured. A buildup of too many boxed foods is a fire hazard. Overall, accumulating large amounts of expired food leads to unsanitary living conditions.

What are the causes of food hoarding?

Seniors on a fixed income may have a legitimate need to avoid wasting food. Hoarding food may also stem from having an indecisive personality, a family history of those who hoard and stressful life events, such as the loss of a loved one, eviction, and divorce. Elderly individuals who hoard food may also experience other mental health issues. Anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be present in those who have a tendency to hoard food. The causes of a hoarding disorder are little understood.

What are the warning signs of food hoarding?

Seniors who hoard food tend to buy surplus quantities of one food item. Or, affected individuals may purchase more food products than they could possibly consume before their expiration dates. The elderly may clip large amounts of coupons to use during shopping trips. Discount food stores attract seniors who hoard. These older customers purchase large amounts of discounted food products that turn moldy, become stale or spoil before the senior has an opportunity to eat them. Seniors might buy new types of food, let them expire and avoid discarding them. A persistent, noxious smell emanating from the home can be a telltale sign of food hoarding. If the unpleasant odors are due to rotting food, the elderly individual might have a problem with hoarding food. Rusty and swollen cans in the pantry are also indications of food hoarding.

Can food hoarding be successfully treated?

Family members who notice large amounts of expired or perished food in the home should help the senior loved one throw them out. Discarding foods that have gone bad is important to prevent illness and food poisoning in the event the senior consumes them. Hoarding, including food hoarding, may not be preventable since the exact cause is unknown. However, loved ones can encourage the senior in their lives to seek cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). During CBT, patients learn to discard excess items without feeling stress and anxiety. Prescription medications may also help improve symptoms of food hoarding, whether it is mild or more severe. Family members should be aware that some seniors may not see food hoarding as a problem, which can lead to difficulty in them accepting treatment.

Elder Care Plainfield Illinois

When your aging loved one hoards food, he or she may benefit from professional counseling and medications. Companion caregivers from Assisting Hands Home Care are available to provide the transportation to therapy sessions as well as ensure the senior takes medications on schedule. Assisting Hands Home Care professionals are available to provide a wide range of non-medical home care services to keep your elderly loved one healthy and safe. We’ll clear clutter from the walkways to prevent accidental falls and injuries. We also perform light housekeeping to ensure a hygienic space. Companion caregivers are a refreshing addition to a senior’s life. Our professionals build relationships with care recipients through pleasant conversation and mentally stimulating activities. Your aging loved one will avoid social isolation and loneliness with a companion caregiver from our home care agency.

Families with seniors living in the surrounding communities of Will and Kendall counties turn to Assisting Hands Home Care for compassionate elder care. Whether the senior needs 24-hour home care or weekly care, we’ll customize a care plan to meet those needs. Call us at (815) 201-5445 for a complimentary in-home assessment.