What can I do about my parent's dirty house when they refuse to let me clean?

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Both of my parents are in need of care. My mother, who has been unstable for years, had a traumatic brain injury 2 years ago. She is 81. My father, who has functioned as a much younger person, is 84. He had major back surgery in November and has just had a stroke. My major concern is the state of their house which is almost two hundred years old and very large. It is filled with boxes and gets worse each day. My other siblings become angry when I mention it although they agree that the house is in bad shape. It appears to be an illness with my mother. They are in a rural area but the EMTs expressed concern when they came to transport my father to the hospital. I am the child that lives closest to them and I want to clean up the house. My mother fights me every step of the way. This is not how she kept a house when I was a child. Two of my siblings tell me not to "cross her" but I do not want my father to return to such an unsafe environment after rehab. My parents are not wealthy but they have plenty of resources. What can I do to help this situation? Do EMTs report situations such as this to social services?

Answers 1 to 10 of 31
Guess it depends on how bad things are. Is she a danger to herself or your dad? Concerning their home conditions, talk to a Social Worker at your dad's rehab facility, and ask for an assessment through DHS is necessary. What type of diagnosis does your mother have? If you feel it's unsafe for your father to return home, NOW is the time to act and get the ball rolling. I wouldn't worry about your mom or sisters, but look after your dad's welfare and best interests. Someone has to fight for what is right. You could call the EMTs and ask their opinion...
Top Answer
Hi RLP,

This sounds like hoarding. My mom did it and it can be a nightmare. It is a symptom of illness and there are others on this site that can answer more directly on that.
As far as cleaning up the house all you can do is tell your siblings that she and your dad both are sick and this has to happen. The longer you wait the worse it is. My mom had boxes and piles of stuff to the ceiling. The basement was stuffed full and most of the boxed items were junk. She had jars of plastic water bottle caps safe on the high shelves and precious family stuff on the floor where they got wet.

Try to move the stuff out of there when she isn't there. Tell her you're putting it in storage and it all is safe and sound, but it can't be in the house anymore.
My mom was a beast about it and I wasted a lot of time actually trying to listen to her. She made it a lot worse with her irrational hoarding and dementia behavior and I was trying to operate on her level instead of operating from a position that she was absolutely not able to make any more decisions on her own behalf and I had to step up. Sucks, but there it is.

There is a happy ending! mom loves what we did with her house. It's all fixed up, and she knows that her stuff is safe. I saved the good stuff, showed her those and she was satisfied.
Less stuff with set you free!
I had the luxury of no siblings so I didn't have that to deal with and you have my respect there. Maybe it's time for them to come and get their childhood stuff? Is any of it theirs or is it all just recent aquisitions?

If you can't convince your siblings to get it together, some other folks on the site will be able to advise you on getting an attorney simply to protect your parents from the consequences of their actions and their childrens' inactions. It really gets in the way of everybody's quality of life to have to wade through s*** to see your parents. Take video and show your siblings.

Good Luck, you can do it!

Bobbie
Clean the house anyway.
I suggest you take your Mother away from the house for the day. Then clean up the areas that need it the most. Don't throw away items she may ask about, but discard anything that is considered trash. In Florida, we report this type of cases to the Dept. of Children & Families. They will send someone out to the home to determine if there is an unsafe and unclean home and then make the family take action.
Larry
Just do it if it's bad enough for you to need advice from this forum.. No permission is needed. You are trying to reason with someone who is unreasonable so that YOU can be OK with what you are doing.
When she is sleeping, get ride of things. Try to get her out of the house, and you can have someone else clean a room at a time. I just get ride of things when she is sleeping. Since she lives in my house, I have plenty of opportunity to do this and I make the rules. Yes, if the conditions are unsafe, she can be reported by social services. If you have POA, they may make you responsible. Get cleaning over her objections. She might like the end results.
I would talk to the social worker involved with your father and refuse to take him home until something is done about the mess in the house-now is the time to do it-it is an unsafe situation for both of them-I know parents do not want to be told what to do but in this case that has to be done or you might tell your Mom if she wants to stay there in her home she has to let the house be cleaned up-some day the EMT't might refuse to go into the house because of their safty.
And if you cannot clean your mother's house, would you like to come to Alberta, Canada and clean mine??? :-)
A few suggestions:

(1) Tell her that your father cannot come home to all that dust and clutter. Who knows? If she loves your dad as much as I think she does, she might help out with the cleaning and probably call your siblings to pitch in too.

(2) I'm sure there are precious memories stored all over that house, so I wouldn't get rid of "stuff" without her knowledge and consent unless it poses a health or fire hazard. Every now and again, together with your mom, slowly go through each room to see what items she can do without and donate to agencies helping the needy (e.g., Salvation Army). A well-advertised garage sale might be another option. Items will disappear from the front lawn so fast that she won't be able to change her mind. Also, helping her understand that her treasures will be put to good use by others less fortunate will pave the way to the ultimate goal: clean the house.

(3) If your emotions are taking the best of you while trying to reach a compromise with your mom, stop. There's a method to her so-called hoarding or madness that you haven't figured out yet, so try another time. Ask your siblings for support, gently reminding them that living farther away doesn't exempt them from giving a hand on family issues that directly or indirectly affect them as well. After all, you're not the only child.

(4) This kind of stress, whether external or internal, should never be an option for anyone unless there's light at the end of the tunnel. For the moment, treat it like a dog would: if you can't eat it or play with it, pee on it and walk away. No doubt you have better and much more important things to do. ... And don't forget to laugh.

Good luck my friend, and let us know how it goes.

-- ED
Hoarders are a different breed. Don't know if that fits your situation, but it did mine. Cards from 1940 and old yellowed wrapping paper. Trust me when I say that sometimes you need to do it and just not tell. Mom never misses anything that I get rid of. I know what is important to her and what is just junk. Got to keep her and my family safe. So, we really can't judge people when they take charge and do what is needed over objections from mom or other people. When dad dies, I cleaned out all his clothes and gave them to charity. My brother had a problem with that, but he never offered to help take care of either parent. At least mom could get her closet door closed for the first time in 30 years!!!! Got to take the bull by the horns sometimes. Been there, done that!!!!

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