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My 86 y/o mom lives in her own home. Very messy (we're working on it) and cluttered (also working on it). She wants to stay there. My sisters and I are supporting her by shopping, meal prep, bathing, handling finances. But we all have our own stuff, too. One sister lives an hour away, one lives a half hour away and has a very demanding job. I'm close and so is another sib.


We need to get her house decluttered and fixed up, but meanwhile we also need a caregiver to come in for x hours a day, to help with daily tasks, help her remember to eat, brush teeth, take meds on time, etc. Mom has beginning dementia, her short term memory is shot.


Are there caregivers willing to be in a cluttered, less than optimal environment? How do we approach this, what should we ask, expect, etc.?

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You & your sisters are such wonderful daughters. I chuckled because there were 3 of us helping Mom stay “independent” in her home & we had the same distance logistics. An hour away (me), a half hour away (brother), & local (sister). It brought back memories.

Your mom’s place sounded like my mom’s was. The 3-box approach (toss, donate, keep) was very helpful to us. We (well, me, because my sister’s tolerance level for the clutter & filth was much higher than mine) at first focused on the rooms she used all the time — living room, bathroom, kitchen, her bedroom. Meanwhile, we hired an aide who was focused solely on mom’s day-to-day care. Since Mom wouldn’t let her do any light housekeeping at all, I ended up hiring someone else to do the cleaning once a month. Keeping those responsibilities separate was actually easier for everyone.

If you do the 3-box approach, perhaps you & your sisters could each “own” a room to do. Then way it’s easier to pick up from the last time you were there.

And we delegated to the aide the bathing chore, as she had much more experience in that area.

My in-laws’ place, on the other hand, was positively filthy. So bad that my sister-in-law, their own daughter, flat out refused to set foot in the place to help. There was no way we could expect an aide to jeopardize their own health by going in there. Thankfully, it sounds like you will never reach that stage.
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Reply to kdcm1011
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I used to be a visiting nurse. I saw spotless mansions and fairly extreme cases of hoarding. The worst was a man who lived in a storefront, smoked non-stop and had flies, fleas and cockroaches running around. I had to put a plastic pad down on the "carpet" so the knees of my uniform wouldn't be black. It was the only time I went there. That's where I drew the line.

If your mom's house has any bugs or vermin (rats, mice, snakes, etc.) or their droppings, I would get rid of enough clutter to get an exterminator in to fumigate before you hire anyone.

If her situation is solely clutter and piles, I would not allow an outsider to go through your mother's stuff. That should be what you kids do. Heaven knows what might be in there. (I found my mother's birth certificate and passport in the side pocket of a suitcase.) Also, that way, you gals in charge for what goes and what stays. That isn't the responsibility of the caregiver. I don't see any harm for the c/g to wash clothes, wipe down shelves, vacuum/sweep/mop, organize drawers and the like. She can move piles to other rooms.

I'm sure, under those conditions, you should be able to find someone. Good luck with Mom letting go.
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Reply to SueC1957
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Define messy, that could mean anything from needs a really good cleaning to something from an episode of Hoarders😕
An agency is more likely to have minimum standards of health and safety in order to protect their workers, but if you hire privately you'd be surprised at what some people will tolerate in order to earn their living.
(the acid test is - would you send your daughter to work there?)
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Reply to cwillie
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no2daughter Sep 26, 2018
I would say her house is in the not too bad of a hoarder range. Not disgusting or anything but stuff is falling apart and there is an accumulation, surfaces are stacked with stuff, dust under there and stuff like that.

Your question was a good one. I appreciate your thoughts, thank you so much, cwillie.
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she must be rich to be able to hire a caregiver. Sitters are about $20 an hour. Hands on care is about $30-$40 an hour. One way or another the "system" will eat up her assets. the cost of care is expensive. If you hire someone ongoing--unless you pay under the table (which there is NO record where the money went if she needs to go on medicaid later) you will become their legal employer which means you have to take out taxes...and if you go that route and they CLAIM to get injured in her home, that person she hires can sue the estate for injuries. That's why I use an agency who is licensed and insured...the alleged injured worker will go on Workman's Compensation.
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Reply to cetude
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I too had thought that I could do the cleanup myself, in a few days, I was wrong. I live out of state from dad, and I couldn't even start the task, it was and currently still is completely mentally exhausting. So hiring a company who is willing to do the hard dirty work, is worth it. I had to go thru the items and decide what I wanted to keep, and that was hard enough, as I realized that my parents paid for these items with their own money, no credit cards, so it all was worth something, and guiltdriven, but the reality is I do not have enough money to keep these items in locked storage, so sadly have to give everything away, heartbreaking. No closure on this process for me, the will as written does not matter in a guardianship situation, when the client needs money to pay for housing in a memory care unit.
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Reply to Kimberly88
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It’s difficult enough to work with the elderly without it being a messy, cluttered environment. Perhaps have a cleaning service do a thorough cleaning and you and your sisters take a full day to declutter.
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Reply to UsedupDIL
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I would set up three bins.

#1 for obvious trash, ie old mail with no significant information.

#2 for old magazines to be donated to a NH or senior center

#3 for everything that doesn't meet the top 2 criteria.

This will make your job easier, 1 bin to decide what needs to be done with items in it.

Then the same with clothes.

#1 bin for rags, clothes that have no more wear in them. (Donate these as rags, charities sell them to companies that need disposable cloth rags)

#2 for wrong sizes, doesn't like etc. To be donated.

#3 unsure, for you to determine.

You are not hiring a housekeeper, you are hiring an aid for mom, so the no go rules will be different.

This can be done one small area at a time, with you or sister only disposing of garbage and taking donations box, that would give all peace of mind that it is being handled appropriately.

Just my 2 cents from people I know in the field and what they are willing to do.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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no2daughter Sep 29, 2018
Your 2 cents are invaluable, Isthisrealyreal, esp. as this is uncharted territory for my mom and for us, her daughters. The issue of her home compounds the more pressing issue of her cognitive decline and everything that goes along with that.

Thank you again, Isthisrealyreal.
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Any caregiver has that prerogative but I doubt that would be an issue. The only thing I ever refused to deal with was a home with bugs. There are people who happily share their home with bugs and allow them to proliferate. That is the only thing I would refuse to do. As far as household organizing, that stuff is kinda fun and can help me to feel more useful during the client's down time.
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Reply to KellyOrtega
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Oh my gosh, you guys. I opened my email this morning and 15 new responses. I'm going to read through them all now. I want to thank everybody who has taken the time to weigh in with suggestions and comments; your generosity is humbling and I appreciate it so much.

Our mom is an amazing woman who raised five kids by herself when our dad died unexpectedly at the age of 30. She went to work, put herself through college, did so much for us and now it's our turn. She wants to stay home, so we are doing what we can to support that but clearly, we need help now. She needs more help than we can give her. And yes, her environment is less than optimal. That's the reality, that's what we have to deal with.

My original post inquired whether that environment would preclude a caregiver from coming in to help. Based on your responses so far, I am thinking no, it wouldn't, but we will need to be straight up with candidates and clear on expectations. Like I said before, this is uncharted territory for all of us and I'm sure we'll make mistakes as we navigate this 'new normal.' But we have the support of each other, and we aren't alone. I found that out when I took a chance and posted on this website.

Thank you guys, so much. Appreciate it more than you know.
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Reply to no2daughter
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I tried getting help for my mother's hoarding/messy apartment. She'd get mad at them when they threw something away - or tried to. The last one sat with her to clean out the fridge - it was a total disaster! Mom doesn't ever want to throw anything away - and all of her surroundings reflect that. I went thru 5 different caregivers/helpers, etc. Now she lives in an Adult Foster Care home and her room is a mess.

She tries to 'sort' and organize and usually gets too tired and is unable to accomplish the task. It's always as if an explosion just occurred and she says 'I'm working with that stuff'...

Of course the answer is to downsize - I liked the list above about which things to remove - that don't fit, etc. But mom always has an excuse about why she should keep clothing - even if it doesn't fit 'now' - it might someday. 'sigh'
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Reply to SueGeo
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no2daughter Oct 1, 2018
I'm sorry you've had such a difficult time, SueGeo. It's not easy, I know. My mom has become less wedded to her stuff so that's a good thing, but not the main thing. I was wondering if a caregiver would consider taking on a position if the environment was less than optimal. Your experience with multiple caregivers is disheartening, but she needs more help so we're going to move forward with doing what we can to support her, clear the clutter, and get extra help.

Good luck with everything, SueGeo.
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