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I have searched and searched and searched for help and for answers and i have come up completely empty with no advice.

My Mother In Law lives in a hoarding house, the twist is....the junk is her sons. Her husband left over 20 years ago and this son (in his 40's now) began to bring his car parts and mechanical trash and anything else he could find in salvage or at a thrift store- into HER home and yard. The problem is, she lives on welfare and has no job and no income. We live in another province, but the son with the issue lives in the same town, so whenever she needs help, he comes to help her. He became the 'man of her house'. Because of this needy relationship, she refuses to ask him to get his junk out of her house as she can't lose him and the help he provides her. The entire basement is FULL to the roof of mechanical parts, tires, car hoods, batteries, gas cans, old furniture, tools, old appliances, etc, etc. There is a 'goat path' to her washer/dryer and another the opposite direction to her freezer. The upstairs has 2 dining sets, 3 sets of chairs, 5 couches...his old bedroom is full to the ceiling, can barely open the door. He 'brings' her things she could 'need' like a new (old and used) mattress then never takes the old ones out, the problem compounds and compounds. He also hoards animals into her home, gifting her pets she can't afford and she can't train or maintain.

The problem now is that her house is in serious disrepair. We suspect mold issues and poor air quality among ammonia and bacteria in the carpets from all the pets. These are NOT her things! She is sick, suffering memory loss and confusion, respiratory illness, weight loss, depression, agitation, anger etc. She will NOT stand up for herself. My husband took the kids over this weekend for only ONE night (and in fact was less that 24hours) to see Grandma since it's been a year. In that short time, he and both kids returned home with headaches, upset tummy, runny nose and coughs....as the day progresses after bathing and laundering all items, they are slowly clearing their symptoms. MIL lives in this condition daily! Anyone who enters that house ends up sick, so of course it's affecting her declining health as well. Her life depends on a clean up.

I understand of course that you aren't supposed to clean up a hoarders house without their consent, but this isn't HER hoard. We have confronted my Brother in Law and brought it up repeatedly over years and years that he NEEDS to clean up her house...he gets agitated, angry and stops talking to us.

What do we do? I feel like the only way to truly help her is to give him a deadline, get it out or we do. We may lose his relationship and he'll abandon the family, but the alternative feels like she'll lose her life. Am I correct to think that being 'pushy' with a cleanup in this situation is the only way? Advice GREATLY appreciated!

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I would listen to professionals about what courts consider competent. It's not always about memory and knowing what day it is. They may also consider the ability to use proper judgment, run a safe household, attend to medical conditions, etc. I'd consult with an attorney in that jurisdiction to find out what is required.

Also, the county/city/state governments do have the the power to condemn unsafe dwellings. That means the occupants cannot live there. That may be the only way some people with take action.
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^You're EXACTLY right...MIL completely stands by BIL and downplays her health (or lack thereof). She has ridiculous excuses for any symptom we notice in her, it's exhausting. Whenever discussions get heated between brothers, she sides with the hoarder. YET, I have sniffed for awhile that she likely WANTS my husband to come in blazing and demand changes...then she doesn't have to be the bad guy.

She is of sound body and *cough*-sound mind. She would be declared competent although she's clearly loopy beyond all doubts. I guess the point that is of concern in that statement is that she's able to care for herself so she would have say. In an extremely small and undesirable town, her property would never sell. It's an old home, no mortgage, yet it's large and way more than she needs so bills ARE a huge issue. Welfare only gives her around $700 a month (Cdn). Moving and having to pay rent (even low income- if that's available in town?) isn't an option. What we HAVE tried to propose is to clean up the property and develop the basement for a tenant. She would be financially well ahead and it would also give her a purpose and a reason. Having someone so close would be of comfort to her and she wouldn't have to leave her home (her ex built it for the family). To my husband and I, it's a win win. Yet...no cleanup, no reno, no tenant, no win.

Hubby talked to BIL last night and told him how ill all 3 of them were from being there for less than 24 hours. Of course, he blew it off and claimed one of his kids spent the night recently and was just fine. No care, no concern at all. When hubby brought it up with MIL, she said sorry. To me that shows that she knows there's an issue or why would she apologize?

At this point the plan is no more excuses, no more standing by. BIL will be given a deadline and yes, haul it to storage (or his acreage!!!) or trash it, don't care, just get it out. Clean the yard, the poor woman should be able to enjoy the garden , her fruit trees, and both the dogs and grandkids would enjoy the space. Time to give her back what little of life she has left. She should be enjoying these final years, not living in hell.
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Many of the government entities mention here so far only have the authority to fine and the person who will be fined is the homeowner.

If she is competent and enabling him, sadly, there won't be much you can do. Unless you can get some psychological counseling for her and have a social worker convince her to cooperate, she will probably won't risk her relationship with him. Sadly, my mother also chose the hoarder (and other issues) over a relationship with myself and her grandchildren and it was sad.

If she is deemed incompetent, then the person who has responsibility over her can take action. I wold start by giving him written notice that he has until a certain date and then his belongings will be discarded. I would then follow-up and have the stuff hauled off.

Now, you realize that as long as he can get back in, he will bring stuff back.

In my case, my mother was competent but I am a bully and never let her know that she had a choice but to go along with everything I said. I do think that secretly, she wanted me to be the bad guy all along, though.
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From what I have read and seen, Hoarding is a mental health issue. It's not likely to improve with threats, demands, deadlines, etc. From what I've seen government agencies lack the know how to really deal with it. However, I would still report to APS and ask them to assess the situation for your mom's health. She could be neglecting her own health by living in such a hazard. Maybe, they can file with the court to step in, get guardianship and make decisions on the house to make it safe for her. Or, you can attempt it. IMO, there has to be a question of competence if she continues to live in those conditions. BIL's feelings and refusal to speak to me would be the least of my concerns.
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Time to move Mom out of the house and into a safe environment.   I realize it is her home, but with all the environmental hazards in the house it will shorten her life and maybe that of her dog.   If Mom can take care of herself, see if there are any senior apartments, where the rent is based on one's income.   Most places will take pets.

Who is the Power of Attorney for Mom? Does she have one? If Mom is still of clear mind, take her to an Elder Law Attorney and get all the necessary papers drawn up.

Time to sell the house.   Sadly Mom won't get the value she hoped from the sale, because I doubt that your brother-in-law will quickly remove all of his stuff.   Hopefully someone who does rehabs will see the house as being fixable.   The new owner will give your brother-in-law a dead line to remove his things, otherwise dumpers will be brought in and everything will be removed.   These rehab guys take no nonsense.
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It is the mold and mildew and fumes that you want to report to APS. The boxes might just be unsightly, but the fumes are dangerous. Perhaps they can order testing of the air quality. There are professionals who do this, and you can also buy do-it-yourself kits. To see a discussion of the pros and cons, google What tests can I do myself to check how healthy my home is?

If the air quality is as bad as you think it is, tell your brother that the junk is being removed. Ask him if it should be hauled to a junk yard, or if he wants to rent storage space for it. If mother takes his side, that is where having some official agency on your side will come in.

The idea of hiring some teens to haul the stuff out sounds good. But I wonder if it will really have to be persons licensed to remove hazardous materials, who will come in wearing hazmat suits. You certainly don't want a bunch of teens getting sick!
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Oh and yes, it's always someone else's fault or they have an excuse or line for it all. Whenever we comment on the air quality and heaviness to it, BIL responds and blames it on 'those damn cats she had'- they died 10 years ago. Oiy.
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I'm not sure. In the research that I've done, the fire department and other authorities will come in to be sure that there's mostly a open path to kitchen and washrooms and a 3' path around the living area. They'd be concerned about the junk that surrounds the furnace in the basement, but her upstairs would pass. The back bedrooms are full, the end of the hallway is full, but the few rooms that she has to herself (kitchen, living room, bathroom) she does her best to maintain. They've stuffed so many chairs in the dining room you d*mn near have to crawl under the table to access them since you can't go around (I'm actually not kidding, the kids have used this shortcut many times!)...but the fire department wouldn't care about family dinners being accessible :/. The living room has way too many couches shoved into that space and half need to go, but again, she maintains it. Her cupboards are STACKED with appliances (most broken) and other junk, but again, for the amount that's there, she maintains it. No roaches or bugs crawling as you see in so many sad cases, so to the quick viewer only seeing main living areas they'd think- woah, full of stuff, but livable. The secrets lie in the deeper parts of the top floor and the basement is horrifying. But it's a bare basement, no one lives down there, other than the issue with the furnace being surrounded I feel like they'd wash their hands of it (haha, no pun intended). It's the mold, the rot, the chemicals and the general condition of the air that is the biggest problem. I see people talk about stacks of boxes (not that that isn't an issue as well, not trying to undermine), but i wish we were just dealing with boxes, newspapers and a large and outdated shoe collection dotted with dusty stuffed animals. The items he brings into the basement should be in a garage. Problem is- the massive 4 car garage out back is full...as is the yard, surrounding the perimeter of the house as well as the camper out front- stuffed with junk.

The town has stepped in and demanded that the yard be cleaned, which was great, but they kept giving her/him graces. They continually would stretch the deadlines and remove items off the list to be nice (small town, oiy.) And we wished they'd been harsher! He did comply and cleaned up the front yard and tidied the back alley view into the property....but the innermost ick remained. He did just enough to comply with their soft terms and stopped.

My husband has felt ill all day as well since returning last night. After seeing the kids wake up sick- he's pretty ticked. He's told me that a voice message has been left with his brother to call him after work tonight. Guess we'll see how this goes. It will be what it will be I suppose. My husband has just as much responsibility to his mothers care and well-being, so if his brother won't wake up and do what is best for his mom, then I guess in reality, we're all better off without him around if he can't see what he's doing. Thank for the luck, we may need it!
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Oh by the way. Hoarders (on tv at least) always choose their "stuff" over family. They manage to justify it and make it everyone else's fault. Not sure about in real life, but I could see it happening.
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Can the fire department step in? Also the planning and zoning commission or whoever does the condemning? Perhaps even her insurance company would be interested in knowing the house is in such a "fire trap" condition. I see those shows on TV where they pussyfoot around with the psychologist and the organizer, but, bottom line is her health and everyone else's is at stake. Her situation is beyond an organizer with sorting boxes. Good luck!
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^ Oh totally CountryMouse. Hubby is initiating and has always taken the lead, the heat and all of the flack with this subject. I was searching so desperately for info because anyone who deals with Hoarders suggest not to 'upset' them or stir the pot. And I get it, I mean, it's a mental illness, completely understand. It was at what point do you forget the niceties and need to get down to business. My husband has always dealt with his brother and mom with firmness and even heated moments regarding the topic, he's not afraid to let them know he's *issed off. I just wasn't sure if there was any other way that we should be approaching it. Looks like our gut was right- forget expecting anything out of him and hire the dump truck.

We live 4 hours away so we can never be there when she needs a hand and didn't want to intervene in her relationship with her other son...until it started to make her sick. And now it's affected our ability to see her and most importantly for her to see her grandkids. Never again. Thanks again for the support with this!
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I agree that your MIL needs help. I do not think there is a cat in h3ll's chance that your BIL will move so much as an oily washer out of his mother's house.

Here's the but. This is your MIL. It is your *husband* who needs to make these decisions and get his finger out. Back him up, certainly, but don't initiate anything yourself because you will be the one who gets any blame going, from everyone, and it is not fair.
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Thank you for your reply and I'm so sorry to hear that you've struggled in a similar way.

Yes, I think you're absolutely correct and at this point I'm fed up. We've tried to talk to him 'gently' about the issue and give him reasonable time frames and offers to come help repair and clean. That was 5 years ago. Now that the problem is much, much deeper and is literally hurting anyone who enters that dwelling- no more kid gloves.

Speaking of kids...after typing my message above, my 4 year old daughter started vomiting. Huh....similar to MIL's black lab that has been vomiting nonstop for over a year? I think the coincidence is not a coincidence. SOMETHING is terribly wrong. The breakdown of rubbers, car parts, oils, grease, chemicals, mold etc is combining to a deadly level.

Now that my own tiny children have been harmed while just trying to visit their grandmother, I'm done. An ultimatum will be given and if he doesn't meet the deadline then we call in a hauling company. I feel awful that I even let my kids go.

Thank you for the suggestion on welfare check. You're right, if we need authorities to help 'push' i have zero qualms about taking that route.
Sigh.
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Been there, done that, have the T-shirt.

My brother is a hoarder and he has his house filled to the brim with trash. He got sick, moved in with Mom and then stayed there after he got well. He began hoarding in her house and her once beautiful fastidious home became a house of junk and rabbit trails. I wish we could post pictures here. I don't have an answer for you other than - who cares if he gets angry with you and stops talking to you.

I ended up having my brother legally evicted from Mom's house and then hiring teenagers to haul all of the stuff to the curb. We now only communicate through terse text and emails and I am OK with that.

Maybe get APS to do a welfare check and see if they determine the situation to be unsafe?
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