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Mother is a hoarder & resists help, when do I call senior services?

Mother, I feel, is depressed and suffers from anxiety as well as physical challenges. She has always had "clutter" issues but since we moved away, it has escalated dramatically. She hoards, will not downsize spends impulsively and has considerable trouble keeping the house clean for herself and my father, who has his own set of health issues. We have talked to her several times, tried to help downsize (she fought it),& expressed our concern for her safety, she has had several falls. She is either argumentative or says she is going to get things together, but in a short time is back to her old ways. We live 4 hours away so checking in on her is difficult. She says she is trying to get ready to move where we are but her "packing things" has been going on for over a year. At what point should we give up on trying to convince her she needs help and involve either some type of intervention or Social Services. I'm concerned for her and my father’s safety, how do I help her while maintaining a relationship. We are close, I am her only child, but she sees my efforts to convince her she needs help as intrusive and disloyal. What to do?
Status: Open    Mar 09, 2016 - 01:18 PM

Caregiving, Relationships

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Expert Answers

Mar 09, 2016 - 03:46 PM

More than likely unless she poses as a security threat to herself or your father, there is limited things that can be done by any senior service. If she is agreeable it may be wise for her to see a mental health expert to address the depression, anxiety and hoarding issues. If she is not willing and you know who her physician is, contact them and explain the situation. Due to HIPAA they will not be able to discuss the outcomes with you but it may be enough to convince the doctor to discuss the matter privately with your mother on her next visit. Many times it helps if a professional outside party addresses such matters rather than a family member. If you have a true concern about her safety or the safety of your father then you can contact your local Adult Protective Services (official department name will vary by state) and they will open up a case to do a "welfare check." Many states will allow you to call anonymously. If possible, have an in person meeting to discuss your concerns. Always start and end the conversation positively and make sure to assure her of how much you love and care for them both. Lastly, see if she will agree to have some in home assistance by a qualified caregiver. Even if someone comes in approximately 4 hours a day 2-3 times a week, that can make a huge difference.

Mar 10, 2016 - 07:28 AM

Having a friend or family member that exhibits “hoarding qualities” is very frustrating for the family as well as for the individual who is the hoarder. Usually the individual has some anxiety and this is the way they are expressing their discomfort. The living environment can become over time a very unsafe place for the occupants living in the space and can only escalate and become hard to control making it impossible for the home to be inhabitable. For your family’s sake I would bring in a professional as soon as possible to control the situation with your mother and assist in techniques that can deal with the clutter and provide a safe environment for both of your parents. This action will take you personally out of the conflict you are having with your mother and you can maintain your relationship. The professional can be the “heavy” and will deal directly with your mother and father instead of you.

Mar 16, 2016 - 09:24 AM

Whenever a behavior causes mentally or physically unsafe conditions, it's time to act. The child/parent role reversal can be a hard thing to manage, but it does sound like that time is approaching for you, and you will be facing some hard decisions. I would suggest, if you haven't done so yet, that you work with your parents to draw up a healthcare POA, so you will have access to information from your parent's doctors. Once you have that access, talk with the doctor about your concerns for your parents. I prefer not to do this secretly, as that can cause difficulties in your relationship, but if you could plan a time to go with your parents to the doctor, voice your concerns, he/she may have a greater impact on your parents making the necessary changes. An outsider is usual better able to convince our parents that the time has come for assistance. I think an in-home caregiver might be a good idea, even just once a week, so you have someone on the inside, who can alert you in cases of declinng health and well being.

Voted Best Answer

Mar 09, 2016 - 03:46 PM

More than likely unless she poses as a security threat to herself or your father, there is limited things that can be done by any senior service. If she is agreeable it may be wise for her to see a mental health expert to address the depression, anxiety and hoarding issues. If she is not willing and you know who her physician is, contact them and explain the situation. Due to HIPAA they will not be able to discuss the outcomes with you but it may be enough to convince the doctor to discuss the matter privately with your mother on her next visit. Many times it helps if a professional outside party addresses such matters rather than a family member. If you have a true concern about her safety or the safety of your father then you can contact your local Adult Protective Services (official department name will vary by state) and they will open up a case to do a "welfare check." Many states will allow you to call anonymously. If possible, have an in person meeting to discuss your concerns. Always start and end the conversation positively and make sure to assure her of how much you love and care for them both. Lastly, see if she will agree to have some in home assistance by a qualified caregiver. Even if someone comes in approximately 4 hours a day 2-3 times a week, that can make a huge difference.

Answers

Mar 12, 2016 - 03:46 AM

after my dad passed away, I saw mom become a hoarder too. Although, she quickly became active with the Senior Center, she then met a very nice man. Married, and had five years with him before he passed. During that time he sold his home, and moved all his stuff into mom's home. My mom had the larger home. The first thing you need to do is understand what is a hoarder. I learned that hoarder/ hoardering a disease that comes from the emotional "lacking" of something in that person's life. My mom came from the depression generation (lived to be 90) as she would often say, it was difficult to find things.
Even once broken, they hung on to it. When my Aunt died we found several broken purses in her closet, never repaired. Just straps, buckles, worn out pouches etc. I thought how strange.

Currently, at this stage, unless your parents are a "threat" - "unsafe" to themselves, there isn't much you can do, unable to do their own
activities of daily living. (ADL's) . Perhaps, if they are receptive, tell them you have a arranged for a cleaning service, "as birthday- anniversary present." Is A local Senior Center often has referrals, meals on wheels, home services, transportation, repair contractors, etc. However, my dad never liked anyone in the house, that was difficult, commenting they didn't like "unfamiliar people" in the home.

I, too lived a distance. However, I will tell you, you do have the advantage of being the only child. (no one else to argue with)
I had two other siblings, that sqwashed any intervention I made with my parents. You don't mention what State you are in, but take this opportunity to follow up (quietly) where your parent's finances are. Each State has their own laws as far as Power of Attorney, Patient Advocate, Spousal rights, Wills etc. Try to get at least that much in order, Start preparing for the next phase, it's a bumpy road..... and make efforts to enjoy what time is left with them. You will have plenty of time to clean up later.... good luck
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