Mom does nothing and won't leave her cluttered house.

Started by

This is about my mother-in-law and I am only looking for help because no one else (her daughters) seem to be taking any proactive approach. Father-in-law passed away over 15 years ago (she was and still is devastated). The daughters moved her to another state to be near them (I live 8 hours away with my wife, one of the 4 daughters). Since his death and the move she has never resumed her social life and spends her days watching TV or shopping (mostly for things she does not need). She is now 83 and recently was told to stop driving (due to the drugs she is taking).. She is a borderline hoarder.. she is constantly shopping for food and things but does not keep trash.. but ALL her closets are full of plastic store bags full of food and stuff.. I know there is no one solution for this issue but I need to arm myself with information to be able to help my wife deal with the situation. Her sisters (3) all live right next door to the Mom and have seen and dealt with her they are tired.... but are not brave enough to take control... lovingly.


When it comes to hoarding, there is little you can do from far away. Much of the logic of the elderly who cannot drive in buying food is they want to make sure they have enough if no one is able to take them grocery shopping (or go for them). One thing your SILs can do is start keeping a shopping list, checking off things that she really needs. This means someone would have to go through the bags to see what is already there. Elders can end up with 10-20 of one thing because they buy it each time whether they need it or not.

Another thing to look out for is dementia shopping. A symptom of dementia in many people is compulsive shopping from TV or catalogs. My father was very brilliant up until his death. Still he had symptoms -- didn't want to leave the house, loss of interest in hygiene, shopping from catalogs. He would spend $1-2K some months buying things in catalogs. He never kept track of the money each item cost, though sometimes he would get upset at the size of the credit card bill. He bought junk. He liked the ordering and the opening of the packages. Then he would just set most things aside. We learned at his death that he had significant mixed dementia. It didn't surprise me. If you think she may have dementia or a problem with compulsive shopping, it is good to do what you can to curb the problem. People can spend themselves into a hole if no one is watching out for them.

Good luck dealing with this. I wrestled with the problem my first two years here. I did things like removed catalogs from the mail when I could and not delivering orders to the post office. It was a difficult problem to deal with, particularly since my father was deaf and mostly autistic. (One reason shopping appealed to him is he loved lists. Shopping entertained him like that.)
Would MIL give someone control? Has she named a POA yet?
Many thanks for your comments JessieBell and Jeannegibs... I don't know that any of my SILs have asked for control.... I get the impression that they want someone else to make that decision. There is a POA that one of the SILs has but believe that it is only for financial matters... not sure. I know what I would do if I were living there and I believe I could get my MIL to buy in... but I do not live there... so the challenge is how to get the other family members involved... as I would. Having said that... it is easy for me to "judge" and say what I would do because I do not live there and do not have to experience they things they do everyday.
Financial POA could be useful for controlling the excessive spending ...

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support