The Catholic University of America

June 20, 2008

CUA Hosts One-Day Symposium on Hoarding

One person's trash sometimes is another person's treasure.

But collecting too many things can also be dangerous, particularly among the elderly. Experts will gather on Catholic University's campus on Thursday, June 26, to discuss this problem.

Compulsive hoarding by the elderly can create myriad problems, including unsafe and unhealthy homes. The consequences of these problems can include "threats of eviction, citations by health and public safety departments, denial of home care services, risks for falls and injury, and complaints from neighbors, family or friends," said Barbara A. Soniat, associate professor of CUA's National Catholic School of Social Service and director of the school's Center on Global Aging.

Hoarding can also be an indication of health problems, such as dementia and self-neglect. Complicating matters, hoarding is also difficult to treat, with clinical trials showing that hoarders do not respond well to antidepressants or psychotherapy.

In response to these issues, Catholic University is hosting a community forum on excessive hoarding on Thursday, June 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The forum, Professor Soniat notes, is for "social workers, lawyers, nurses, public health workers and other professionals who are increasingly seeking educational opportunities to better understand and serve clients for whom excessive hoarding is a problem."

The symposium will bring together academics, civic leaders and first responders such as the police and code enforcement officials. Together, they will attempt to develop ways communities can respond to the issue. Another aim of the forum is to help achieve broader understanding. To that end, one product will be a conference report.

The forum will also feature speaker Christiana Bratiotis, author of the book "Compulsive Hoarding in Older Adults."

Sponsors include two of Catholic University's schools - the National Catholic School of Social Service's Center on Global Aging and the Columbus School of Law - as well as the George Washington University Law School and the Legal Counsel for the Elderly.

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy at 202-319-5600.