Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hoarders need help to change their behaviour

Kate Murray

It was a daily battle for Arthur Porter even to get to his front door. Towering piles of books, papers, magazines and shopping bags filled his hallway, and put much of the rest of his house out of bounds. Living without hot water and not daring to put on his gas fire because of all of the clutter surrounding it, Porter says he knew his hoarding had got out of control. "It had got to the stage where I was almost living my life like someone in the middle ages. I knew things couldn't go on as they were but I couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel," he says.
It was only when the fire brigade was called out after his faulty cooker started smouldering that Porter, 63, a former accountant and teacher, began to get the help he needed. He was referred to Orbit Care and Repair, a home improvement agency that supports older and vulnerable homeowners. It helped him to release equity from the home in Whitley, Coventry, where he has lived all his life, to pay for home repairs, and to start clearing the clutter he has accumulated over decades.
"When I first went to visit Mr Porter he could hardly open the front door," says Cath Sharman, deputy manager of Orbit. "There were piles of stuff up to the ceiling in places. He would bring in shopping and forget he had bought it. Not just food, but electrical gadgets and books. The neighbours had put in an insurance claim and it turned out an overflow pipe was dripping down from one of the bedrooms he couldn't get into. He didn't have a workable kitchen and his health was suffering."
According to the University of London's institute of psychiatry, between 2% and 4% of the population are affected by a tendency to hoard, and it appears to be a growing problem. "I've been in this job for 23 years, and it's more common now than it ever was before," says Kathie Martin, senior agency manager of Orbit. "We set up a specialist support service because with the number of cases we were seeing our arms just weren't big enough to cope."..."  More

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