Between 2-6% of the population struggles with hoarding behavior making it a highly common mental health issue. Because this is such a common and often misunderstood mental health diagnosis, Governor Baker has proclaimed May 25 – May 29, 2020 Massachusetts’ second annual Hoarding Disorder Awareness Week.
Eileen Dacey, Program Manager and Clinical Specialist for the North Shore Center for Hoarding and Cluttering, is the driving force behind Governor Baker’s legislative proclamation. According to Karen Sullivan, Clinical Specialist for the Center, “Our program would not be as successful as it is without [Eileen’s] hard work, advocacy, and determination.” The North Shore Center for Hoarding and Cluttering offers safe and non-judgmental support for individuals and families struggling with clutter and is based at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore. Both Eileen and Karen provide clinical support and crisis management and Karen offers support groups for the program.
The process of obtaining this proclamation was not an easy one. It took two and a half years of Eileen’s persistence to achieve until the proclamation was ultimately granted in May of 2019. There are only three states in the country that have legislative proclamations recognizing this mental health issue: Washington, Massachusetts and Minnesota. The hope is that the proclamation will lead to discussion at the State House level. Since it was granted, there has been more task force development in Massachusetts on hoarding disorders. As Eileen says, “It is encouraging to hear from people in different avenues saying what we are doing isn’t working and I don’t know why but I know something has to be done about it. This is what I think we can do to start changing. It is my hope to change the discourse on a community level. The narrative is shifting. That is an accomplishment.”
Eileen is often asked about success stories regarding hoarding disorders. “As a clinical social worker treating hoarding, I have to ask how we define ‘success.’ We have to focus first on the internal processes behind the behavior and not the physical. You will meet resistance if you focus on the physical. I want to look at whether or not there are changes in one’s core beliefs. Can someone change their acquiring habits, decrease rigidity, let go of things? Are we increasing safety and functionality for someone living in their residence?” That is where the success will lie.
If you or someone you know is struggling with hoarding, you are not alone. How does someone know if she or he may have a problem with hoarding? Ask these questions:
- Are you struggling with an inability to let go of possessions regardless of their value?
- Do you experience severe distress or anxiety when you are attempting to organize and discard your items?
- Have you noticed that parts of your home are cluttered to the point that it is difficult to complete the following; walk, cook, organize, put things away, enjoy hobbies?
- Do you struggle with excessively acquiring items?
If you are worried about any of these factors, contact NSCHC for further clinical assistance. NSCHC offers non-judgmental clinical services such as counseling, crisis management, and support groups.
Congratulations to Eileen and Karen for their dedication and hard work for the North Shore Center for Hoarding and Cluttering at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore!
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Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore, Inc. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne’s background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. “I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you’ll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to Elder Services’ audience.”