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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Food hoarding

Q: My mother is elderly and lives in a senior apartment. For quite sometime she has been collecting food and paperware from any source she can. When she goes to eat in the dining room she fills her pockets with the sugar packets from the table. When she is out anywhere there are paper plates, napkins and plasticware, she collects as much as she can carry. She also visits food give away sites and picks up anything and everything they have - even when she doesn't eat the foods she collects. Her small apartment is packed with food and she won't part with any of it. Can you tell me what is going on?

A. I would feel very confident telling you that your mother is a hoarder and her obsession is with food. People with hoarding issues can be hoarding food, objects and even animals. I have met a woman who has more than 100 cats in her home. I've met a man who has so many books in his home he actually sleeps on the top bunk of a bunk bed so that books can stored below him. Hoarding is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed professionally. Given your mother's advanced age, it's going to be nearly impossible to cure. I recommend that you contact The OC Foundation at and for help.

If her situation is dangerous, such as building towers of food that may topple over and injure her, or blocking doorways, etc., you may need to take action. I highly recommend that you call in a professional organizer who specializes in working with hoarders. Hoarders can become hysterical, have a panic attack, scream, cry and even have to be rushed to the hospital when their home is being dismantled. They may even physically attack YOU and your workers.

In this house, the hoarder has been stuffing food into every cabinet and closet. Some of the cans had actually burst from age and glued themselves to the shelving. Nothing was allowed to be discarded no matter how old and how dangerous.

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