Hoarding disorder and how the NDIS can help

We all like to hang on to keepsakes – little reminders of the past, people or events. But what happens when that desire spins out of control until you are unwilling and even unable to throw ANYTHING out, until you are so surrounded by these “memories” you can’t move?

This is called hoarding disorder – it is a recognised mental illness, which progressively gets worse, but the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can help.

There’s nothing like a good spring clean, any time of the year, but for people with hoarding disorder it becomes persistently difficult to let go of items or throw things out, regardless of their value.

After a few years of this crippling reluctance, it can become a real problem – not to mention a potential health hazard.

People living with this disorder have a perceived need to save the items and there is great distress associated with discarding them. This leads to an accumulation of possessions and rubbish that clutter the person’s living areas – sometimes to the point it is almost impossible to move around the inside of their homes.

Not only can this hoarding become unhygienic, it can also be unsafe and dangerous, particularly if items are stacked on top of each other.

According to @Health Direct, many people collect things as a hobby or for sentimental reasons — from stamps to their kids’ teeth, but for people with hoarding disorder they accumulate possessions because it is too distressing to discard them.

People who collect things are more likely to display or store them in a specific place, rather than have them take over large areas of the home, according to Health Direct.

Collectors are also more likely to use or enjoy their collection, whereas someone with hoarding disorder may argue that they are keeping something because it will have a use in the future — and often it doesn’t. Things like old newspapers, discarded rubbish, trash, drink and food containers, even used sanitary products in some cases.

Someone with hoarding disorder will also store the items in a disorganised or cluttered way, with no specific space to store them. It can get out of hand and start affecting neighbours and family.

A person with hoarding disorder may have a lack of insight into their condition, seemingly not able to recognise that they have a problem, or that they cannot use their surroundings due to the clutter.

And that is often why family members and friends, neighbours and even appropriate disability service providers, via the NDIS, can step in.

While the NDIS does not replace community mental health services or treatment services provided through the health system, it can provide psychosocial support.

The NDIS Psychosocial Disability Recovery-Oriented Framework (Recovery Framework) has been developed to ensure that the NDIS is more responsive to participants living with psychosocial disability, their families and carers.

Also, specialist, NDIS professional organiser providers like Hoarding Home Solutions, Creating Positive Spaces, Life Choice Solutions and similar providers are often the best places to start.

To use NDIS funds to hire a professional organiser your plan might include goals about:

  • Organisation
  • Clutter
  • Home maintenance
  • Daily/weekly routines
  • Managing your to-do lists

You may have goals to learn new skills to keep your home and life organised, to manage stress and make it easier to work, study or socialise.

Melbourne professional organiser, and NDIS registered business, @Creating Positive Spaces works with NDIS participants to help them achieve their organising and NDIS goals to accomplish the following outcomes:

  • Improve daily living by establishing organising systems and solutions.
  • Establish home and life organising skills that promote independent living.
  • Build organising and life skills to empower participants to engage within the community and improve their life.
  • Enhance the safety and functionality of the participants home.

@Life Choice Solutions, based in Toronto, New South Wales, works with NDIS managed, plan managed or self-managed participants in much the same way as other registered professional organisers, but they also focus on the long-term education and support.

All team members are trained in mental health, providing one-on-one assistance to those living in poor living conditions through to severe domestic squalor and to those who experience hoarding as an issue – not only by cleaning but working with you and your family to reduce the impact of your living environment.

Their aim is to help you to receive a coordinated response so that your living conditions can be addressed and managed for the long term, focussing on your goals.

Types of services they provide include:

  • Comprehensive Assessment
  • Cleaning Services
  • Psychosocial Recovery Support
  • Referral and linkages to other relevant support services e.g, carpet cleaning
  • Coordination Support

NDIS-registered @Home Hoarding Solutions can help people with clutter problems in several ways in centres across Australia.

Their mission is to provide practical, affordable, easily accessible, online training that empowers people to work effectively with confidence and compassion to resolve a hoarding situation, including:

  • Professional organiser
  • Specialist cleaner
  • Rubbish removal
  • Mental health support
  • Social worker
  • Occupational therapist

They offer courses for family and friends, independent service providers and even support professionals.

You can find a team throughout Australia – head to https://hoardinghomesolutions.com.au/find-a-provider/ to narrow your search.

It’s sometimes difficult for those with hoarding disorder to reach out for help, and accessing help via the NDIS can also be challenging. They might be ashamed, have little support or knowledge of HOW anyone can help. And they may not even recognise anything is wrong.

However, @Greater Brisbane Hoarding and Squalor Strategies Group (GBHSSG) has devised a document that might be very helpful for those in the Brisbane district – and perhaps further afield!.

The GBHSSG claims clients who experience symptoms of hoarding disorder are having trouble being assessed as NDIS eligible, and those who are found eligible are failing to receive adequate care packages.

They have devised a document of hints and tips that may make the process, and outcomes, for clients more favourable.

They suggest people trying to access the NDIS focus on the impact of hoarding on their lifestyle, quality of life and ability to live safely in the home – e.g. barrier to ability to shower, to prepare meals, the ability to move safely around the home etc.

They highly recommend support letters from doctors especially if those letters focus on the impacts.

Have a read of their document – you might find their tips very handy.

Mental Health Association of NSW, @Way Ahead, recognises hoarding disorder may be difficult for families and friends to understand and manage, particularly if the person does not recognise that they have a problem with their hoarding.

It may cause distress for families and present questions on how best to help.

Some helpful ideas include;

  • Encourage the person to seek professional treatment.
  • Try to learn as much as you can about the condition.
  • Avoid going into their home or personal space and throwing things away without discussing it with them first. This may cause great distress for the person. Try to discuss it with them first and if no agreement is reached, do not take it upon yourself to clear their clutter.
  • Acknowledge their fears of losing their possessions and the changes they will have to make during treatment.
  • Be realistic with expectation- don’t expect too much too quickly.
  • Seek support for yourself, whether speaking to a mental health professional or attending a support group.

Head to their website to find out more.

The important thing is, there is a safety net out there for those living with hoarding disorder. If you are having trouble accessing the NDIS for help, reach out to one of the above providers, friends, family, support coordinators, local area coordinators, health professionals … Help is available, you just need to take the first steps.

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