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OCD in the elderly

My mum has OCD but she has never been diagnosed as there was no such thing 85 years ago.

She has a compulsion to wash clothes a lot and she washes her hands and anything else over the top.

She also has anxxiety about not having enough of anything especially cleaning products and so will hoard. She doesn't like to part with anything and we have helped her clear her house when she had to move but she still goes on about the things that have been thrown away or given away.

Now she has slight dementia she doesn't want to look for anything and if you ask what food she says she doesn't have any because she doesn't want to look. She gets anxiety about food if it has been left to long out of the fridge even when defrosting.

She is very negative about everything and it is very tiring emotionally to be with her for long periods.

7 Replies

I sympathise but cant help here - Annie80x


That's ok. It's good to share



The hoarding and cleanliness obsessions are clearly OCD symptoms. I have had to do several questionnaires on OCD and the symptoms you describe were on there, although I have a different strand of OCD myself. It sounds really tough, with dementia thrown in too. I can only suggest that you work on reducing the anxiety levels and address that rather than the OCD. Try distractions and positive reinforcements. Accept that this is her condition and not her. Go and see her doctor with her and see what they can offer to help, but 85 years of this must have been really tough for her. I can only suggest that you try to see past her rituals and obsessions and try not to judge her by them. be supportive and positive and help to reduce her anxiety. it could be that the dementia has triggered her anxiety. Good luck and God bless.


HI Amanda

I am not judging her by these rituals just observing that she has them. We continue to put positive ideas and things her way. Of course reducing anxiety is the first and continual thing that is on all our minds.

She wouldn't see the dr about this as she has got so used to it.

What I am trying to get over is the carers need help because it is very wearying trying to put positive into someones life when they don't believe it.

She can only change her beliefs herself by exploring how much she believes each thing.

In the meantime the carers need time out to reflect on their own lives and to get quietness and peace into their lives.


I know that living and dealing with people who have OCD can be very wearing. If she won't see a doctor, then maybe you can get some specialist advice on how to help her. It's very difficult trying to understand such irrational behaviour, I know. With the dementia too it must be really hard on the whole family. There must be some online support groups for carers. It is often hard for someone who has OCD to see things from the point of view of those around them and to sympathise with how difficult it is for them to watch a loved one suffer.


When anyone has Obsessive Compulsive Behavior they are in a mental hell... my Mom is 85 and also has OCD...there are many jokes and the problem gets swept under the rug over it (and our Ma's won't find it because it's not part of their routine, lol), but not really funny at all...useful to know, but not funny. I had it myself and I still possess little quirks... like; when I hang up the phone I hit the off button 10 times and I count...are you laughing yet? And it is funny mattter/fact it's a scream. It's a behavior that the individual invents themselves for reasons i'm not sure of...I'm actually just now begining to notice some familiar behaviors just recent when I moved in with my Mom to sort of take care of her if she'll let me...it's difficult, tho, because I have to be a just a mite bold when calling her on the things that are repeaticious and one behavior at a time so being patient is dificult...about 10 yrs. back I had to move out of my home...it was traumatic but it put me on the road to recovery because I thought I couldn't be cured because i took so many precautions like hiding the behaviors, and being adamant to any suggestions I recieved... i didn't think I wanted to be cured until I was pushed out of the corner I had backed myself into... like now that i've admitted the phone thing I vow to exit a call by pressing the button only once like normal people do from now on. Admitting you have OCD puts you on the road to recovery...Here's where i'm at with my Mom: So far I have called her on a few small things...talked about my Obsessive behaviors ...and...what got my Mom to admit it is I started doing some of the things that shes obsessive about and she doesn't want that for me it's also not a good practice for me and probably not a good tool to use even tho it;s worked a little... and I now have her attention...today I'm going to point out one of the behaviors and see if I can get her to change the routine...I need to point out to you that everyone has their own tools that work so keep that in mind and also dont listen when people say to let it go or ignore it because of her age but your Mum is in a mental prison and she does'nt know how to get out and she thinks she doesnt want to and its hard to get past the fact that she's the boss...and the fact that she's 85 is all the more reason to want to open this beautiful world up for her again and get her out a.s.a.p... if you have any ideas that you think might help us let me know because a therapist is out of the question. ....We can do this!...I'll keep you posted


To everyone that has commented...My Mom is 85 & her OCD is pretty advanced. It has advance because it has progressed over the years at a very slow pace...as you age you begin experiencing slight memory loss & becomes more and more rapid past the age of 70 for most...intelligent minds are very disturbed by this and the rapid progression past 70 can be very traumatic...they worry about fire...they worry about catching the flue...about not having much time left they worry about forgetting, they have aches and pains...aging is not for wimps...this causes them to double check things...tripple check things etc...this could very well be the onset but in some cases a traumatic event could trigger it. It's not trying on me or on my Mom were both content...this is how it was able to progress...but....I just woke up to how bad it really is...she will barely come out of her room...she rarely leaves the house...its time I do something...any suggestions would be greatly appreciated...thank-you.


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