Food hoarding is a common behavior among seniors, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease and other related conditions. This can manifest in several different ways including:
- Sneaking food
- Hiding food
- Secret eating
- Stealing food
- Purchasing extreme quantities of food
This can result in dangerous issues including food poisoning from expired foods to attracting rodents. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to your senior loved one’s behaviors and food habits if you suspect they may be hoarding food.
If you can’t be there as much as you’d like, the expert caregivers from Caring Healthcare can help. We offer a variety of senior care services from companionship to meal prep to medical care and more.
In this article, we’ll explain what you need to know about seniors hoarding food.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding is a disorder characterized by the inability to throw out possessions. This can ultimately lead to the home being unlivable because of the large quantities of items. People hoard a variety of things, from general goods to food to animals and more. Hoarding disorders affect 2% to 6% of the population, with the disorder being more prevalent among seniors.
Why are Seniors Hoarding Food?
Seniors who are on a fixed income may have a logical need to avoid food waste. Food hoarding may also be due to stressful events, a family history of hoarding, and/or an indecisive personality. According to experts, there may be some mental health issues that contribute to seniors hoarding food including:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder
- Anxiety disorder
Warning Signs of Seniors Hoarding Food
There are several warning signs of seniors hoarding food to be aware of:
- Buying surplus quantities of a particular food item
- Buying more food than they will be able to eat before it expires
- Clip and use a lot of coupons
- Shop at discount food stores
- Not discarding food after it expires
- Unpleasant odors due to rotting foods
- Rusty/swollen canned goods
While there is no guarantee that your loved one is hoarding food if they display these behaviors, you should pay close attention if you notice them.
Consequences of Food Hoarding
Food hoarding can be dangerous to a senior’s health because they may consume a product without realizing that it has expired. This can lead to food poisoning, which is much more dangerous for seniors because they often have a weaker immune system due to underlying health issues. Seniors are at a greater risk of contracting serious illnesses including listeria, E. coli, salmonella, botulism, and others.
In addition, expired/spoiled food items can attract rodents and insects, which carry a variety of diseases that can have serious health ramifications. Finally, stacks of canned goods or boxes can fall over onto the senior or their guests or can cause a trip hazard.
Can Food Hoarding be Treated?
If you notice that your loved one is hoarding food, offer to help them throw out anything that is expired or spoiled. This can help reduce their risk of contracting food-borne illnesses. In addition, if there are foods that are not expired that they are not going to eat, offer to help them take it to a food bank.
Unfortunately, since the exact cause is unknown, hoarding may not be preventable. Still, treatment options such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help the senior to discard excess items without feeling anxious. It’s important to note that some seniors may not see food hoarding as an issue, which can make it difficult for them to accept treatment.
Hire a Caregiver to Help Your Senior Loved One
If you are concerned about your senior loved one hoarding food and you are not able to be there as much as you’d like, let Caring Healthcare help. We offer a variety of senior care services including companionship, transportation to medical appointments, shopping, medical services, and more. Schedule your consultation today. Let us show you how we can help.