Help offered for extreme hoarders

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    Invercargill City Council senior environmental health officer Ann Thompson (left), Age Concern Southland manager Janette Turner and Public Health South health promotion adviser Clare Van der Lem look over the final draft of the Good Living Conditions in Southland protocol, a multi-agency approach to addressing severe hoarding in the region.

    THERE is help available for Southlanders living in severe domestic squalor.

    A multi-agency working group has developed a collaborative and co-ordinated approach to assist those living in extreme hoarding or unsanitary conditions in the region.

    “Our aim is to improve the health and quality of life of an individual living in severe domestic squalor,” Age Concern Southland manager Janette Turner said.

    “If we can work collaboratively with the occupant, then we bring the combined experience of us all to developing workable solutions.”

    Agencies involved include Well South Primary Health Network, St John, Southern District Health Board mental health services, Needs Assessment and Service Co-ordination ser
    vice, Public Health South, the Invercargill City Council environment officer and police.

    The group has developed an inter-agency protocol, Good Living Conditions Southland, which sets out pathways for referral, a checklist for assessing levels of clutter, guidelines and information to ensure people living in severe domestic squalor were assisted in a consistent, sustainable and respectful way.

    As part of the initiative, a panel had been formed to assess the severity of hoarding/domestic squalor situations and to develop a plan to support the occupant(s). There were plans to set up support groups and an early intervention service.

    “We walk alongside them and give them options,” Ms Turner said.

    Severe domestic squalor or hoarding refers to extreme living conditions which are filthy, unclean or foul through neglect. There is an accumulation of rubbish, excrement and food
    waste which impedes activities of daily living and jeopardises the health and well-being of the occupants.

    Ms Turner said people living in those conditions were at risk of tripping over, the environment often attracted vermin and could be a fire hazard. Not being able to access running water or cooking facilities because of accumulated items stacked in and around their bathroom and
    kitchen facilities was also a concern.

    Causes of hoarding behaviour varied, but often followed a bereavement or crisis, having grown up in a hoarding family environment, or as a result of mental health issues, she said.

    The initiative had been driven by Age Concern Southland, which had been managing an increasing number of self-neglect and hoarding cases in the region in recent years, she said.

    Last year, Age Concern Southland dealt with 45 cases of self-neglect and six cases of severe hoarding.

    The Southland-wide initiative will be officially launched on July 10.

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