Elder Services’ Popular Hoarding and Decluttering Program Offers Solutions

Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore CEO Joan Hatem Roy. (Courtesy photograph.)

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the merger between Merrimack Valley Elder Services and North Shore Elder Services. It was smooth sailing for the combined $95 million nonprofit until the pandemic.

Elder Services Community Relations and Development Director Bonnie Sisson, a guest Monday on WHAV’s morning program, said the coronavirus sent all 550 full- and part-time employees home to work remotely. One of the benefits of the merger turned out to be the expansion of one of North Shore Elder Services’ most popular programs.

“They had a program for hoarding and decluttering. It’s an award-winning program. In fact, Eileen Dacey, who is the program manager, had done a phenomenal job and Gov. Baker signed a legislative proclamation declaring a week in May to be the Hoarding Disorder Awareness Week. And I know people see the show on TV, but this is a real problem and they’ve come up with a wonderful program to help with some of the solutions,” she explains.

Sisson says it’s a serious program, even though she has a light-hearted technique she uses with her husband.

“People say, you know, just throw it out, but the whole program and the process is a lot more involved than that. I have a little exercise I do sometimes with my husband, and that’s ‘Tell me a little story about it,’ whatever it is that you’re clinging to or won’t throw out. After that I say ‘now see, it’s a memory,’” she jokes.

The merger of the two elder service organizations included the addition of the communities of Middleton, Marblehead, Salem, Peabody and Danvers—for a total of 28 communities now being served by Merrimack Valley Elder Services, with 11 language capacities; almost 400 volunteers, including all of the Meals on Wheels drivers; and the management of nine volunteer programs.

The nonprofit agency has managed a range of programs and services since 1974, offering a variety of choices to “help people maximize their independence and enable them to live safely.”

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