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Wednesday 19 August 2020

Clutter & disorganisation crisis looming for brain-damaged COVID-19 patients?

There's potentially some good news on its way for experienced Professional Organisers and Professional Hoarding Practitioners who work with people with complex needs - we're likely to be even more in demand as a result of COVID-19.

According to an article in The Guardian on 8th July 2020, UK neurologists have published details of mildly affected or recovering Covid-19 patients having serious or potentially fatal brain conditions.

The cases (published in the journal Brain) support a paper recently published in The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (by an American team of leading neurological experts), which says that some former COVID-19 patients may go on to develop cognitive decline, attention deficit, brain fog, or Alzheimer's disease.  

And that of course means they may (for example):
  • Be left with degenerative COVID-19 related physical health problems that affect them for the rest of their lives
  • End up with PTSD caused by the trauma of having had COVID-19, as well as having to adjust to having physical anxiety, depression or stress-related illness that they may not have had before
  • Find it difficult to maintain their pre-COVID-19 career/employment status, level of income and lifestyle
  • End up finding themselves reliant on the benefits system to be able to pay their bills - assuming there is an appropriate welfare system in place where they live of course...
  • Need to downsize or request council accommodation if their situation becomes too dire (they may even have to relocate to other areas if there's insufficient suitable accommodation available in their area.
  • Lose some of their Executive Functioning (EF) - the daily skills of life that enable us to carry out what "neurotypicals" take for granted, such as:
    • the ability to remember were they put things; 
    • arrive at appointments on time (assuming they remembered to write the appointment in their diary in the first place - assuming they could even find their diary or remembered to look in their diary); 
    • organise their homes (eg. create and maintain effective filing systems for paperwork, photos, emails, etc; 
    • manage their affairs (eg. pay bills on time, arrange repairs to be carried out to fix broken heating, etc)
    • maintain a clean, safe, hygienic and clutter-free living environment
Not that these are good things of course - absolutely not - far from it!  

Life-changing experiences like these can be frustrating, exhausting, depressing, and time-consuming to address.  Especially for individuals who were previously physically active, focussed on career development and fiercely independent.  

And then there's the friends and families who end up becoming carers to them post-COVID.

Without appropriate and timely support, the health and wellbeing of people affected by these kinds of difficulties can rapidly deteriorate, and the consequences can be disastrous.
It's only in the last few years that some local authorities (especially those that have received specialist training from organisations such as Hoarding Disorders UK CICClouds End CIC and Rainbow Red) have begun to understand that issues related to clutter, disorganisation, self-neglect and hoarding behaviours are:
  • Very rarely lifestyle choices
    • Until COVID-19, the chances are that that individuals experiencing these issues had underlying neurological and/or mental health conditions (often undiagnosed).  Post-COVID-19, the difficulties could be related to that issues caused by the Coronavirus, on top of existing problems.
  • Likely to be physical representations of the chaos and overwhelm in a person's life
  • Often made worse by sending in a clearance/cleaning firm, instead of someone who offers a person-centred service
So, why does this mean there's potentially a clutter and disorganisation crisis looming?
Because the bad news is that:
  1. there may be no money to pay for these essential services
  2. There aren't enough of us with sufficient skills and experience of working with people with complex needs to meet demand.  And those of us who do have been inundated with calls since lockdown started - we simply can't keep up (so apologies to all those who we've not yet had a chance to contact).

Health and social care services are likely to be overwhelmed with requests for support from the likes of professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, support workers, mental health specialists and neurological specialists - all collaborating with Professional Organisers and Professional Hoarding Practitioners - empowering individuals to remain independent for as long as possible.

We predict there could be (for example):
  • inadequate budgeting and training of NHS and local authority personnel to provide specialist person-centred practical support
  • Many people who lose their job due to the deterioration in their health, and who turn to already over-stretched health and social care and/or benefits systems to pay for support
  • enormous competition for already very limited health and social care budgets 
  • an increase in demand for council accommodation
  • an increase in the number of social workers required to deal with increased case-loads
  • an increase in safety issues in the home due to self-neglect, fires; slips, trips and falls; infestations, etc. 
  • an increase in the number of vulnerable people being targeted by unscrupulous scammers and and becoming victims of of cuckooing (when people are unwell they are less able to maintain their properties in which drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for county lines drug trafficking. 

All of which could continue for many years to come.

Still, it's reassuring to know that decluttering and organising specialists are likely to at last become an integral part of multi-agency responses and interventions.  Better late than never.

My hope is that by re-training people who have struggled with organising issues the past - and either attended hoarding or clutter support groups or worked with professional practitioners (or both) to develop sustainable coping strategies that  brings order to their lives - we'll end up with a new generation of practitioners as passionate as we are about giving something back to clients who were once like them.

So, if you'd like to know more about attending training to become a Professional Hoarding Practitioner, please please please get in touch.  

Because without your empathy, patience, and ability to motivate, empower and coach people to believe in their ability to take control of their paperwork and their homes, some people won't be able to sort their way out of their mess - which wasn't their fault in the first place....


To find a Professional Organiser in the UK, check out The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (APDO) website -