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Unpadding the Nests of 'Pack Rats'

January 25, 1990

I was interested in your story "Pack Rats Unite" (Jan. 18) and pleased to see that this is being recognized as a serious problem.

For the past eight years I have worked in a rehabilitation unit as a physical therapist. Most of our patients are older people who have suffered from strokes. Medicare and other insurance companies encourage us to visit the patient's house with the patient prior to discharge to make sure the patient is safe in his/her own environment. This is time and money well spent, since too many of these people return within a few years with broken hips or other accidents.

The most astounding aspect of these visits is the high percentage of pack rats I find. My patients usually go home using walkers or large canes and many have very poor balance. Many of these houses are filled with boxes of newspapers on the floor and enough furniture to fill a 3,500-square-foot house compacted into 1,000 square feet. It is impossible to use a walker without side stepping through the spaces.

I would like to see these organized groups catch on. If the problem is recognized when people are in middle age, perhaps it can be brought under control before they are too old and sick to help themselves.

BETTY WEISS

Glendale Memorial Hospital

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