Objective: This study explores the experiences of family members caring for a person who compulsively hoards.
Design: Ten participants, all ‘key carers’ for a hoarding family member, were interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule designed for the purpose of the study.
Methods: Transcribed interviews were analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis.
Results: Five superordinate, discrete but interconnecting themes were identified: ‘loss of normal family life’; ‘the need for understanding’; ‘coping with the situation’; ‘impact on relationships’; and ‘marginalization’. Carers' accommodation of hoarding behaviours and role isolation were examined in drawing connections between themes. Outlying themes suggesting factors protective of relationships and facilitating coping were also identified.
Conclusion: Carers struggled to cope with both the environmental and interpersonal impacts of the hoarding. Lacking both formal and informal networks of support, carers are in need of information and treatment options for themselves and their families. Possible avenues for future clinical and theoretical research are suggested.