Senator Bob Casey Raises Alarm on Hoarding as a Mental Health Crisis

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Bob Casey, D-PA, is calling on the federal government to take action against hoarding disorder. This problem is becoming a concern among senior citizens.

Casey, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said: “Hoarding is a devastating condition that poses challenges for older adults, their family members, and communities throughout the United States.”

Around 14 million Americans suffer from hoarding disorder. Hoarding disorder affects approximately 6% of Americans over 70 years old, even though only 2% of U.S. citizens have this mental illness.

Reality television shows that feature extreme cases of hoarding disorder may contribute to the stigma surrounding this condition, which can lead to social isolation. The stigma surrounding hoarding can make it harder for older adults to maintain social connections.

The disorder can also have more severe effects on physical health.

Extreme hoarding can lead to an unsanitary environment and can even hinder mobility in the home.

In a study cited by the report, 70% of people with hoarding disorders were unable to use their sofas. 45% couldn’t use their fridges. Around 42% of those with hoarding disorder could not use the bathtub, and 10% couldn’t use their toilets.

Seniors who suffer from hoarding disorder are also at greater risk of falling. Medicare pays an average of $31 billion a year for injuries caused by falls.

This condition can also put a heavy burden on local fire departments, as cluttered areas make it more difficult to rescue people.

The report outlines how excessively cluttered environments reach flashover (or the point at which all items in the home simultaneously catch fire) at about 1 minute and 40 seconds, compared to 6 minutes in an uncluttered home. After a flashover, it is unlikely that anyone who is trapped inside a structure can be rescued.

Housing insecurity is also a result of hoarding because landlords who have hoarding disorders struggle to meet local safety standards.

Although there are many treatment options for hoarding disorder including cognitive behavioral therapy, psychological treatments, and social work interventions available, the experts and community workers who spoke before the committee to prepare the report emphasized the need for further research and improved rehabilitation options.

Casey’s report on the majority committee found that federal agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have few resources for people with hoarding disorders.

Casey stated that the federal government must do more to combat hoarding disorder.

Casey’s reelection bid against Republican Dave McCormick is heavily focused on helping seniors, as approximately 20% of Keystone State residents are over 65. Over 22% of Pennsylvania’s residents are enrolled in Medicare compared to a national rate of only 19%.