Hoarding Nhg

29 May 2024

Success story: Helping a hoarder – Ricky and John

Housing officer turned team leader, Ricky Sullivan, talks about how we helped one of our residents overcome their hoarding issues.

I wanted to share this story to show how through constant communication and building relationships we can really change our residents’ lives for the better.

The complex psychological problem of hoarding disorder is a diagnosable mental condition in and of itself, as well as a form of self-neglect. Back in March 2022, it came to our attention that one of our residents, who lived in in Rochford, was a severe hoarder.  

I remember the day very well. It was a Friday, I started work early at around 8am. I received a call not long after starting from a neighbour who was concerned about our resident as they had not seen him for a while and there was a very strange smell coming from his property. I attended straight away, knocked on the door and shouted through the letterbox.

There was no answer and I too could detect the strange smell. I was really concerned for the resident’s safety so I arranged a welfare check with the police. Police attended and forced entry, where we found the resident, John, in his lounge sitting in his armchair smoking. He said he hadn’t heard us. This is where the story begins.

The resident was suffering from health issues and as his flat was on the first floor. It had become increasingly difficult for him to leave, meaning he was essentially stuck in his home. He had found cleaning and general upkeep of his home quite challenging and as duties started to pile up had found himself spiralling downwards, which only worsened his existing health conditions. His main issue with sores on his legs which severely affected his mobility. He could not go up and down the stairs to get rid of rubbish, instead it was hoarded indoors.

His home was in a very bad condition mainly due to hoarding. There were numerous takeaway boxes, which posed a massive fire risk. The bathroom also had faeces all over it. It was clear from this visit the resident needed some urgent help to take forward these issues.

We first attended to complete a deep clean of the bathroom so the resident could once again us it to help with his personal hygiene. We then arranged a clearance of the property with the assistance of JustAsk. I arranged a district nurse to visit the property on a weekly basis to help with the sore on John’s legs, along with other care he required.

This all meant that the resident was able to start caring for themselves and get back to a more independent life.

But it doesn’t stop there, there’s been more good news. When I became team leader of east team 6, which mainly covers Rochford and Southend, I kept in contact with John and managed to find him a lovely one-bedroom ground floor flat, about a two-minute walk from where he currently lives. This property suits John’s needs far better. Previously he had been on the first floor with communal stairs which he struggled with and was the main cause for the hoarding.

I check in on him regularly and keep in touch with his brother to make sure he’s ok and has a support network. I did try calling him on his 80th birthday this year but he didn’t answer, clearly having a lovely time in his new home.

Thank you for taking the time to read our story.

John says: “I cannot put into words what you have done for me. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without your help. You even came to visit me whilst I was in a care home, thank you Ricky.”

Emily Thomson, project director – housing, said: “I am so grateful for all the work Ricky has done to assist John. He has worked incredibly hard to join up local services to help John and secured him a home that he can live independently moving forward.

“The compassion he has shown throughout is testament to Ricky’s caring nature, and despite changing roles Ricky was committed to securing a good outcome for John so continued to own this case from start to finish. Well done and thank you for sharing this great outcome.”