73. Case: Compulsive Hoarding – Bessie

Bessie is 65 years old and is living with schizophrenia. She has recently been discharged from hospital, and is now receiving mental health support services at home.  For a while the team has attempted to visit Bessie twice a day. She initially refused to let the team into her apartment and has now allowed health care providers inside.

Upon entering the flat, the team observes many hazards including insects, spoiled food, and broken furniture and appliances in the apartment.  The team notices an eviction notice by the door. They are concerned with Bessie’s living situation, but not sure about what to do.*

*(Case adapted from http://www.nicenet.ca/tools-compulsive-hoarding-the-ethical-dimensions)

What are some of the important details in this case that can help the team to decide how to act?

What are the key ethical principles that apply in this case?

Is this a situation where the team can break their confidentiality with Bessie? Why/why not?

What options does the team have to address this situation?


Some values and ethics issues to consider:

Respect for Confidentiality

Respect for Autonomy


Informed consent

Quality of life



Gibson, Amanda K.; Jessica Rasmussen; Gail Steketee; Randy Frost; David Tolin. 2010. Ethical Considerations in the Treatment of Compulsive Hoarding. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. Vol. 17, Issue 4:p. 426-438. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1077722910000945

Frost, Randy O.; Gail Steketee. 2014. The Oxford Handbook of Hoarding and Acquiring. Oxford University Press. 2014.

Koenig, Terry L Chapin, Rosemary Spano, Richard. 2010. Using multidisciplinary teams to address ethical dilemmas with older adults who hoard. Journal of Gerontological Social Work. February 2010; Vol. 53(2):137-147.

National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE). Compulsive Hoarding: The ethical dimensions. http://www.nicenet.ca/tools-compulsive-hoarding-the-ethical-dimensions)

Tompkins, Michael A..2014. ‘4.5 Ethical and legal considerations when helping a client with severe hoarding’. In, Clinician’s guide to severe hoarding: A harm reduction approach. Springer. November 2014.


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