How do I accept that my 89-year-old dad will not keep his new home clean?

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I just moved my 89 yr old dad into a retirement community apartment. His old house is falling down around him and I stopped visiting over a year ago because he's a borderline hoarder. He's still active, still drives and exercises every day. Physically he's in very good shape for his age. He's almost completely deaf, but does have hearing aids & that helps. The big issue we have is he never throws anything away and seems to have forgotten all he ever knew about cleanliness. My partner & I bought him all "gently used" furniture to furnish his apt so he wouldn't bring his "Beverly Hillbillies" junk to the new place; we also bought all new dishes, glasses, flatware, etc. to outfit his kitchen. We've spent weeks shopping & setting up his new place, and it looks really nice. He loves it and was very excited to move (this wasn't pushed on him & he's ready to leave the responsibility of maintaining the old house to simplify his life). His first day at the new place he brought a van full of boxes filled with old, dirty miscellaneous kitchen items, canned goods that are probably expired and other things I can't bring myself to even look at. We bought new bed linens so he'd leave his old sheets, etc. at the house to be thrown away & told him to bring his "pillows" (thinking surely to God his pillows are ok!). When we removed them from their ancient pillow cases, the pillows had mildew on them & smelled terrible. Everything he brought with him is dirty. He sees absolutely nothing wrong with this. He's fully capable of cleaning up after himself, but he just chooses not to & doesn't see cleanliness as important. I'm making a trip for new pillows today & will take care of that, but I know he will continue to bring loads of "junk" from his old house to this new apartment. The apt complex cleans each apartment weekly so that will help, but he's a packrat and I'm sure over time it will end up looking like his house - crammed full of stuff & junk he picks up along the way.

Do I accept that he's going to to do this and stop trying to keep the new place nice? Should we smile and say nothing, knowing we did our best by setting him up in a nice place with nice furnishings, and let him do what he wants to do? The stress is high and my partner & I are the only ones feeling it - our thoughts now are "If he doesn't care, why should we?" How do you let go and let them do what they're going to do?

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You might try telling him that the people coming in to do the cleaning will report if things are a mess and piled up, if he thinks he may not get to stay there, he may try a little harder... but it also sounds like depression to me.... depression presents in many forms for elders..... you didn't say if he was on any meds... maybe a really good check up and telling the Dr. about his 'hoarding and not tending to his cleanliness' may prompt the Dr. to ask some questions of him that may answer some worries and concerns you have.... Has he always been this way, or just a subtle decline????? How is his eyesight??? Just some things to think about, but how awesome of you and your partner to make such a nice place for him to start over....... let us know how things work out.....
Thank you Ladeeda. I took your advice and explained to Dad the cleaning & maintenance people would report him if he started letting things pile up in the apt, and patiently explained about picking up after himself, where his clothes go, etc. He is on several meds for blood pressure, restless legs, cholesterol, and a few other things, but he sees his doctor frequently and is a nut about his health. He's always had a "mean" & sarcastic streak & my sister thinks he's doing some of this just to be an @ss and cause us stress. I found out he left perfectly good pillows at home when he moved - no idea why he brought the old disgusting ones. Anyway, thanks for the quick response. It's good to know others are going through similar challenges and after reading through some of the other posts our situation is a day at the park. Thank you all.
If he doesn't care, why should you? Well, because you love him and his well-being is on your mind. But try to separate what is just ugly from what is a health concern. Mildewed pillows are out. Boxes of junk may be just an eyesore, and that is in the eye of the beholder. Pick your battles.

Having someone from the outside come in to clean and look at his mess frequently, and probably comment on it, may inspire a little better standard of cleanliness.

If he is just trying to get you riled up, that phase should go away when you've disposed of all the unhealthy items.

My best friend's mother is a life-long hoarder. She was also a collector and had many valuable antiques and collectibles. When she moved from a very large house to a townhouse, it took her kids more than a YEAR to get the house ready for sale. It involved sorting the trash (several dumpsters full) from the collectibles and antiques, several estate sales, professional appraisals, and lots of hard cleaning work. Whew! The mother was mad that the kids would let bring only 4 complete sets of dishes to the townhouse. She never entertains, or has dinner parties. All holidays and celebrations are hosted by her kids. But she loves being surrounded by things she owns. Now that she has been there a couple of years, her kids are going in and trying to nip the collecting and hoarding in the bud before it gets completely out of hand again.

I'm certainly not an expert on this strange behavior, but my guess is that if your dad is a hoader (as opposed to adverse to cleaning and a little lazy) that isn't going to change. Focus on keeping him safe and healthy. Try not get too attached to making the apartment look good according to your standards. It just needs to meet the fire marshall's standards, and basic hygiene considerations!
HH, glad to be able to help, but like Jeanne says, pick your battles.... our idea of 'clean' is not someone else's.... so what if a few newspapers pile up... between house keeping and you , you can keep things 'livable'... how is he adjusting otherwise??? And am very glad to hear he is concerned about his health... are there things for him to do there, interaction with others?? That may help too as he will not be alone so too busy making new friends to pile things up.... let us know how he is adjusting..... hugs to you.....
Wanted to update you on the situation. First of all, Dad is thrilled to be in his new place - his days are his to do as he pleases and no more worrying about the 'old house' and all the endless projects he had going on there. This is a retirement apt complex & the residents are in the 60 - mid 90 age group. He's one of the most "fit" residents and they're all amazed to hear he's almost 90. They have a beautiful dining room where they get breakfast & lunch served to them 7 days a week so he gets well balanced meals & a lot of interaction daily (I set up reminders on his laptop to remind him to go to breakfast & lunch). They also have various activities everyday and residents can get as involved as they like. He's adjusting well and loves his new apt & each time I come over he explains that he's still getting everything situated in the right place, but he assures me he'll keep things in order. I know it won't be the 'clean' that I would like, but that's ok and I won't obsess over it. The suggestion to let him know the apt staff would report him if he let things pile up was a great idea & really helped get through to him.
Thank you again for the responses... they really helped!

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