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ago but has a hoarding problem and cleaning issue that could be on a hoarder's show. Any non -critical offer of help is answered by behaviors that become overwhelmingly hostile. My siblings live far away. They don't seemed concerned about the health and fire risks for my mother. She refuses to throw almost anything away.She even keeps paper drink cups from fast food restaurants to reuse. If a member of the Dept. of Family and Children services visited, actions would have to be taken. I do not criticize, attempt to move papers, but have tried to help clean. Her house has more than 3,000 square feet and has mice, of course. I do not eat there unless I bring the food. She saves food for at least a month. This is not a financial issue, but it is a family secret. I am the youngest girl and live the closest to her. Mom had a TBI five years ago and has recovered some but is not always rational although she is rational on some days. My father would be appalled if he saw the house even though the hoarding had started many years before he died. The house is truly unhealthy now. I promised Dad I would look after her, but I cannot fight an 84 year old woman and older siblings who visit rarely. I am open to any suggestions. I need to mention that she has become very volatile and hostile with some people on some subjects. I am frequently her target when she is frustrated. I have started sticking to text messages since she likes to text in order to make certain she is okay in the morning and at night. I know she is a child of the Great Depression, but she did not have a difficult life. She really did not realize life had changed like my father who did go hungry at times. I am on my own. My husband just ridicules and makes comments. She does not let people in her house unless she cannot avoid it, and Mom is getting much worse, not better. I want to help with as much non-patronizing kindness as I can. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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I can sympathize with you, wow its so hard to be a caring child of an adult that doesn't think they need help. I clean my parents house when they are out.Its not good. tomorrow I am going to try to get them to help remove stuff from one small area. Their house is so out of control with stuff it is not safe. I think if I can get them to help clean maybe just maybe they will try to keep it clean, its awful and nobody wants to go there anymore. Its very very sad. They were not this bad when they were younger(now 85 & 87) not great at getting rid of stuff but not this bad. They don't want to waste anything that some one may need. I get this but its not healthy or safe anymore. thanks
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You may or may not be able to influence your mother's behavior. But you can control your own. Do not move your family into that building. I am sympathetic to your mother, but realistically you cannot let her mental problems corrupt your family life.This is certainly not to punish her. It is a matter of self-preservation and of taking care of the family in your household.

When explaining this to your mother try to be objective and not emotional. Calmly list the reasons why you cannot live with her. Offer the alternatives of helping her get the house cleaned up so it meets your needs, or of helping her find a long term care facility. Make sure that this is in no way presented as a punishment or a judgment that she is a bad person. It is just the reality of what you need to do for yourself and your family.

Do talk her doctor. Obviously the doctor cannot force her to take drugs or to accept counselling, etc. But this will certainly not be the doctor's first experience with hoarding. Perhaps there will be some useful suggestions out of the conversation.

You promised your father that you would do everything you can do for your mother's wellbeing. You did not promise anything about what you can't do. You are a loving daughter, not a magician.

Whatever you do, don't move into that chaotic unclean environment. Sacrificing yourself and your family is not looking after your mother's best interests. She needs you all healthy and sane.
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I promise that this will be my last entry for a while, at least. My mother is on the board of directors that hires the doctors she uses. My father was the director of the board and the board invited her to be a member as a courtesy. She refuses to take any of the meds that might help her TBI issues. She considers such medications a weakness. She has rows of sample bottles that have never been open. I am truly at a loss as to what to do to help her.
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My laptop sent my message before I finished. I am sorry! I want my mother to be happy, and I promised Dad I would do everything I could to help her. I am going to talk to my doctors and see what they suggest as a starting point. My mother is a good person who has had a serious TBI and seems to function well for her age when she is in public. She is not functioning well at home. I love her and need to help her, but I also have my own family to consider. This is truly an example of being between a rock and a hard place. Thank you for trying to help.
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Dear Planeman,
Most of the issues can be ignored. However, I will be the adult child living with her and my son and husband should not have to live in the middle of all of the chaos and lack of cleanliness. Mother becomes irate if anyone bothers her food, decorates her house, or interferes with her life. My son and I have asthma. We can't live there, but we really need to already. The nearest neighbor is over a mile away, the fire station is made up of volunteers, and I am so afraid she will fall. You mentioned that not one died of the situations you observed. My son or I can due to the dust and mice. I love the country and there are ways to live there with reasonable cleanliness. I am not looking for perfection. I am looking for a way for all of us to live together so that my mother can stay at home instead of going into a nursing home. Her physicians are not going to know unless I tell them and then they will tell her how they know. S
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RLP, mt dear,

These problems are more common than you think. It is more than likely that your mother's problems are more medical that they are anything else. Yes, talk to your mother's physician. It will not be the first such case that has come to his/her attention. There are medications that can help.

At the close of your email you mentioned, "She does not let people in her house unless she cannot avoid it,......." Don;t you think that your mother is also aware of the appearance of her home? Outside of the spoiled food aspect it might be your best bet to let her go on with her phobia. After all nobody ever died from a messy house. As a retired family lawyer I have seen homes where there were only trails to move around in or I recall one house where so much was piled up (mostly fabric and rags) that they had to move the chairs in the living room closer and closer away from the walls to give space for the furniture. Folks sitting down sat knee to knee. There were several cases where there was not a single horizontal surface that was not covered with stuff on stuff on stuff. But, I repeat, none of them died as a result of this condition.

If it were my mom, I would worry more about that old food situation. Maybe you could find someone to clean the kitchen while you took mom for a ride and a look at the xmas decorations around town. The rest of the stuff.... what the heck?
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First, does she have a doctor that you can talk to about her? If so, do it. You need to establish a record of having at least tried to be proactive and of caring for your mother. Also, check to see if there are any mental health programs in your city that have resources available (even if it is just someone for you to talk to formally). One of these days somebody will see what is going on and you need to make sure that you don't end up getting blamed.
Maybe, just maybe, you will be able to find some local program or service that can help. Good luck.
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REB:

The hoarding has become worse and the sibs won't help. I'm sure you've already suggested donating some of the stuff to the Salvation Army, putting them on eBay, or something along those lines. How about a DFC-enforced garage sale?
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I have no experience with this myself. I have a friend whose mother is a hoarder and I see how painful it is for the kids. In this case the mother was also a genuine collector, so among the junk and trash there were vintage and antique items of interest and value. It was a nightmare of huge proportions when her kids helped her move from a huge old house into a townhouse. They somehow managed to limit her to taking only 4 complete sets of dinnerware with her, but she still is offended about that 10 years later. She does not give dinner parties or host family events. She just loves knowing she is surrounded by lovely things. (Never mind that the dishes are in boxes and she does not have the pleasure of viewing them.)

I have no clever tricks for you. But unlike your siblings, I can understand the problem and empathize. I'm sending cyber hugs your way. Yours is a very difficult position to be in.
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You poor dear ... I can relate somewhat and wish I could give you an answer. Maybe between all of us here we can make suggestions that may turn out to be helpful. When I moved back to my hometown to help care for my parents, my parents' house stank, those plastic grocery sacks were growing out of every crevice and cranny, no countertop was left uncovered ... both of my parents complained and both were up in arms when I first started cleaning house. So, in the beginning, I didn't do anything in front of them and started in rooms they rarely went in. I mean, who likes to get yelled at? So there you have it --- I usually snuck out junk to throw away when they were taking a nap.
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