Saturday, January 10, 2009

Elderly shopaholics killed by purchases

I happened to come across a news item from the UK, "Elderly Shopaholics Killed by Purchases". If you never knew a shopaholic, you would probably smile and think this article was a joke. It is not.

I know how serious this problem is because my elderly mother was (and probably still is) a shopaholic. I live 600 miles away from my mother. So, for the past 20 years she loved flying out and visiting our family. I never saw her home first-hand. My brother checked in on her each week and let me know "everything was fine". It was NOT. When I was called to her house last March, I walked into a home in total chaos. I found out that she would go out daily to shop (cheap clothes, non-perishables, all kinds of stuff). Until the EMT guys had to come to take her to the hospital, she denied entry to her friends and neighbors. It was like a hidden, dirty secret behind the facade of a lovely home. My mother finally admitted this was the way she dealt with her loneliness.

When I had her house cleaned out, a refuse guy carried away a ton of trash (after we had donated all the usable stuff). She also seemed to have a real hoarding problem. We helped her downsize, move and get organized in an apartment in a retirement community. I have to be vigilant that she doesn't begin this behavior again. The one saving grace is there is a cleaning service that comes in every Thursday and keeps an eye on things.

I think now that Mom has new friends and neighbors and activities that it will alleviate her loneliness and boredom, but I think her shopaholic activities were also somewhat of a compulsion. Has anyone out there addressed this kind of behavior in the elderly? If so, please comment and share solutions.

Here is the UK article about one woman who was knocked over by "pile of electrical appliances, suitcases and other objects" and then a man "believed to have been killed by dehydration when he could not find his way in a maze of tunnels through clutter in his home".