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Domestic squalor has been associated with alcohol misuse but little work has explored this. Executive dysfunction is commonly observed in squalor and is also associated with alcohol misuse. Hoarding can accompany squalor, but it is unclear whether hoarding is also linked with alcohol misuse. This study compared neuropsychology and hoarding status of individuals living in squalor with and without a history of alcohol misuse.
A subgroup analysis was conducted on a series of 69 neuropsychological reports of people living in squalor. Data on cognitive profiles, basic demographics, alcohol use, and hoarding were extracted and analyzed.
Alcohol misuse was reported in 25 of the 69 participants (36%). Alcohol misusers were significantly younger (mean age 66.2 years, SD = 10.7) than non-misusers (mean age 75.6 years, SD = 10.3) (p < 0.00) and significantly more likely to be male (p = 0.01). No significant differences between the two subgroups were found for estimated premorbid intellectual functioning, Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores, or individual neuropsychological domains. Alcohol misusers were more likely to be living in squalor without hoarding than squalor with hoarding (p = 0.01).
Alcohol misusers living in squalor were less likely to hoard than non-misusers. This finding suggests that alcohol misuse may be a risk factor for squalor via failure to maintain one's environment rather than through intentional accumulation of objects. The similar cognitive profile among those with and without a history of alcohol misuse could represent a common pattern of executive dysfunction that predisposes individuals to squalor regardless of underlying alcohol misuse diagnosis.
Squalor is an epiphenomenon associated with a range of medical and psychiatric conditions. People living in squalor are not well described in the literature, and prior work has indicated that up to 50% do not have a psychiatric diagnosis. Squalor appears to be linked with neuropsychological deficits suggestive of the presence of impaired executive function. We present a case series of people living in squalor that examines their neuropsychological assessment and diagnosis.
Clinicians from local health networks were invited to submit neuropsychological reports of patients living in squalor. These selected reports were screened to ensure the presence of squalor and a comprehensive examination of a set of core neuropsychological domains. Assessments were included if basic attention, visuospatial reasoning, information processing speed, memory function, and executive function were assessed.
Sixty-nine neuropsychological reports were included. Sixty-eight per cent of the group underwent neuropsychological assessments during an inpatient admission. For participants where it was available (52/69), the mean Mini-Mental State Examination score was 25.29 (SD = 3.96). Neuropsychological assessment showed a range of cognitive impairment with nearly all the participants (92.75%) found to have frontal executive dysfunction. One person had an unimpaired neuropsychological assessment. Results indicated that dorsolateral prefrontal rather than orbitofrontal functions were more likely to be impaired. Vascular etiology was the most common cause implicated by neuropsychologists.
Frontal executive dysfunction was a prominent finding in the neuropsychological profiles of our sample of squalor patients, regardless of their underlying medical or psychiatric diagnoses. Our study highlights the importance of considering executive dysfunction when assessing patients who live in squalor.
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