Follow
Share

Mail, newspapers, and any container that food came in. My Aunt is the conservator & we are worried about an inspection of some sort.We want to clean up but removing my Grandmothers stuff is causing her some anger. Any suggestions?

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
One thing I had learned from the Staff at the senior living facility where my Dad lived, that when a person has dementia and still live in a house, they like to make their living quarters smaller and smaller by piling things around them.... kinda like a cocoon.

I know when my Dad moved from his large house into a 2 bedroom Independent Living apartment he was much happier.... then when the time came to move him into an one room Memory care suite, he liked it even more. I had noticed no hoarding by any of the residents in the facility, so there might be something to this smaller downsizing.

EJax, I see from your profile that your Grandmother lives in her own home and has Alzheimer's/dementia. It is extremely emotional for anyone who tends to hoard to let go of anything. Guess it is part of building up their cocoon.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

What approach are you currently taking that is upsetting your grandmother?

This is an extremely emotive issue, and I sympathise will all parties. But there are various ways of tackling it, so if you could describe how you're going about things at the moment it might be possible to suggest alternative strategies.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

Tsk! - sympathise WITH.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

Don't know if this would help, but every time I go visit my sister, who has a very small house but no clutter or nick nacks, I come back home and want my house to be uncluttered and clean like hers. It always motivates me to " let go" of some more of my " stuff". Maybe you could take her for a weekly visit to a very clean and uncluttered home. I live with my 95 year old mom and have spent 3 1/2 years, slowly getting rid is "stuff" in the house. She checks the garabage cans when I put them in the curb so I have to make sure everything I get rid of is at the bottom and other stuff gets put in my cars trunk so when I leave the home I can go straight to the donation center or a dumpster. 99% of the stuff I have gotten rid of she doesn't even remember. On occasion when she does remember, I have found the best way to handle it is to say I don't remember the item she is talking about. If I say I don't know where it is, that just makes her more suspicious!
Taking her to my sisters clean house has helped motivate her to get her bedroom cleaned up and uncluttered while I have worked on the rest of the house, garage, and yard.
I have lived with my mom my entire life (52 years) and I have seen the changes with her over the last 5 years. Making her good wholesome, organic meals and staying away from sugar, has really made a huge impact. Exercise and s good sleep pattern and lots of fresh air are incredibly important too. Anyways, I hope this might help. God Bless. 🙂
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

Hi - yes, I recognize that, too. On the mail, my Mom seems less able to process what each one is, it's a core issue. She opens it ALL and makes stacks she 'has to go through.' Here and there when I'm over, I'll look at them with her and point out what's mass marketing stuff and can go in the trash. On the food containers, perhaps together you can clean, stack and organize it all and put them where the regular dishes go - since she's implying that's what they are like - and see how congested the cabinets are. Make sure she understands recycling, and if there's not recycling where she is, offer to drop them off for her or bring her to the recycling center, let her know or see it's set up for that purpose. Good luck!
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

When you're dealing with hoarding like I did with my grandmother sometimes you have to be forced to decide for them what stays and goes because if they're holding on to unecessary stuff it's a safety and health issue especially where they are living. My grandmother got angry because she made comments to her doctor during an appointment saying how she was being abused and nobody was feeding her and that resulted in the courts getting involved and a lot of stuff that happened. The social worker who showed up saw the clutter and realized my grandmother was a hoarder. Now you have to understand that you can't regret deciding to clean up and organize for them because they'll do whatever it takes to stall you from doing what needs to be done. Stay focused and don't let mom or dad try to interrupt the cleaning if you have to take them someplace or have a relative keep them for the day while you clean. I wish my family was more involved but giving how my grandmother had treated people over the years they didnt want to be bothered with her. Doing this also relieves stress from having to come to a home that's not healthy to live in.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

If this is new behavior, then the idea of cocooning for a feeling of safety makes sense. However, if this is a life-long behavior, it's a disease closely related to OCD. Sometimes treatment can help but it's horribly difficult to anyone with the disease to make this change. These people feel like throwing something away is losing part of themselves.

At this point, your Granny is not likely to respond to any type of therapy, but kindness and understanding may help in her at least allowing you to clean up food mess and dangerous things. The rest you may not be able to do anything about without causing her terrible distress.

This is unimaginably hard for others to live with but compassion for the hoarder helps with understanding the "why" which helps others make emotional adjustments.

I hope that you can make at least a little progress when it comes to safety and health.
Take care,
Carol
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

My dad lives with me now, but when he was living alone, he hoarded food. We tried to clean it out, but he got really angry, even when we showed him that the canned food he'd hoarded had expired five years ago or so. We left it until he wasn't able to live on his own. It is insecurity. I would first recommend conversation about how she feels about her mail, etc... what it means to her, and then try to reason with her, tell her it's a fire hazard. I like what the other commenter said, if you can get one room of her home clear of clutter and then set it up so she can sit in there, watch tv or sleep in that room, maybe she'll like it and decide to clean out the stuff in the other rooms. If this doesn't work I would talk to her doc about ocd meds, if she's on one, talk to doc about upping her dosage. And as simple as it sounds, you might try a trade off, this behavior is like building a security blanket around themselves, take away the clutter and literally give her a blanket to wrap in, or a new one she really likes. That worked for my grandmother who passed many years ago, and it is now also helping my dad, he even wraps up in it in the summer. Simple yes but whatever works. Maybe move furniture around so she feels more enclosed, then start clearing out the excess.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

This can be one of the earlier signs of Dementia.
If she has not been diagnosed then this could be just Hoarding or she may soon show other signs of Dementia.
This can be tricky getting rid of things.
You can say that you need to borrow some items for a party then toss them when you leave the house.
You could help "organize" and place many of the items in a storage box then mark it and set it aside. You can later move the box to your house where you have more storage space..then toss it or donate it.
The more aware she is the more difficult this will be.
If she is staying where she is rather than moving to assisted living or a smaller place it might be easier to let her keep for the moment some of the most "valuable" items.
Just make sure that the house is safe, there is easy passage between rooms, nothing on the floor or stairs that she can trip on. And nothing that blocks any vents or doors. This is most important if she is a smoker. Make sure there is a smoke detector and a Carbon Monoxide detector in the house, one on each level. some can even be linked up to a smart phone so you could be alerted if one or the other goes off. Then you can call Emergency Services.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

The many behaviors of dementia/ALZ. I feel for you and yours having to do deal with this issue. I haven't run into that situation with my mom, at least not yet. So my only thought is to start removing things that are further away from where she spends most of her time. Maybe you can whittle it down over some time and she may very well not notice due to the memory loss. But I say tackle the stuff further away from her, or things that are at the bottom of piles etc. so it won't be as noticeable. Perhaps you can remove some things while she is sleeping. Then maybe you can keep more control of the piles with getting rid of the older stuff so that you have peace of mind that at least the hazards might be under control. It's finding the right level of clutter to help keep her within her comfort zone. Trial and error, remove a few items at time and see what happens. If there is a lot of stuff it may seem futile but just keep at it. Good luck and stay well.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

So what? She has the symptoms of being a hoarder. Watch that program on t.v. and see what people hoard. So, she becomes angry. Better get rid of the extra stuff or else she can be inspected by the health department and they will force an elimination. You can also hire a psychologist to talk her through her hoarding. This is a mental illness and needs professional help. Good luck!
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

Mother has the same problem. I had looked at it as "cocooning" but that is a good term. She is literally wrapped in a tight bundle of junk. With a lot of lovely things threaded through it. She keeps EVERYTHING. I do insist that she keep a clear walkway as she is prone to falling, and she needs a walker of some kind to move about always.
I tired once to "clean" and got kicked to the curb for it. My own home is quite spare and empty. I am the queen of throwing stuff away. I only now am allowed to take out the "trash" she deems as trash and no more. I do sneak many piles of newspapers out to recycle (she seems to think someone, somewhere can use these!) In the basement of the house are maybe, of, 20 plastic bins literally packed with garbage, that she let me pack up, but refused to toss.
Mother's only "food prep" area is about 2'x2'. She has covered the rest of her counters with junk. I just sanitize that when I'm there and clean the bathroom a little. You have to pick your battles. She's a hoarder, for sure, in a 5,000 sf home, it was noticeable..in a 400sf apartment, it's claustrophobic. Add in to that mix molting birds who are filthy and disgusting and whose cage is cleaned maybe twice a year..gets pretty pungent. She has a room freshener going in every room--that smell, added to the tightly closed windows and never cleaned home--kind makes you gag. I cleaned last Spring while she was gone for an MRI. Opened all the windows and scrubbed to my heart's content. She came home and commented on how good it smelled. I said "Mom, that's just fresh air".
I have really given up trying to do more than just tossing what I know she won't miss (huge piles of junk mail and catalogs) and taking out the bathroom trash and newspapers. I open a window near to where I can sit (one chair in the kitchen) and just try to not look hard at anything.
I've seen and cleaned MUCH worse hoards, so as long as she is happy and feels safe, it's not going to be an issue any more. Her health is really going downhill, so I don't think she'll be here much longer. Not worth the time with her to battle over the mess.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

You need to figure out a compromise between her safety and her comfort, and that's tough. My mom hoarded papers, junk mail and all sorts of things in her apartment. She would get mad every time I tried to clean up and eyed me suspiciously if I tried to do it on the sly, even if she had no idea of what she was holding on to. She could not sleep in her bed any more because it was so cluttered. At the nursing home she still holds on to junk mail and will collect old magazines from everywhere, but the staff cleans her room periodically when she does activities. Is there a way you can clean up without her being aware of it?
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

Unless your loved one is pretty much "out of it"...no, you cannot take things from them...I do agree you MUST, out of safety concerns keep walkways clear, exits clear and the eating/food prep areas as sanitary as possible..but somehow, my mother was able to walk into a room I'd cleaned and know IMMEDIATELY what little plastic dollar store trinket I'd tossed. She ascribes value to EVERYTHING. I have worked with hoarders, and honestly, it's a super depressing job. Something like 98% will revert back to the hoarding behavior if it isn't also addressed with some kind of cognitive behavioral therapy--and mother doesn't HAVE the ability to discern "junk" from ":valuables". Never has had. I doubt at age 86, she's going to start.
Mother was in a rehab for 3 days and somehow managed to fill up two HUGE drawers. her little closet and her nightstand and bed table. We had to move her and all that went with her. It's like it just follows her. The 2nd rehab place enforced a very strict level of tidiness, which she HATED....but at least you could maneuver around her room with no fear of falling.
In my case (and I am sure I'm not alone) I have turned a blind eye and nose to her living conditions. It's not unliveable--it's just really grimy, smelly and depressing (to me) she's happy as a clam.
I think your ability to "sneak clean" is limited by how much your granny notices what she has. You'd be surprised!
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

I dealt with the exact same issue. My mother would fly into a rage every time she saw me cleaning her very cluttered family room. What I ended up doing was waiting until she went to bed and throwing things away as needed. In the morning, she didn't even recognize the difference.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

A lot of good suggestions here. By now she is probably already defensive with anything you suggest. If you can limit what comes into the house that helps. ( Tell others to be mindful as well). Also try to take out the back door as much as comes in through the front door and thank goodness she doesn't go out and collect stuff to bring home. Be sure to take bags with you when you buy groceries so you don't add to those. Whittle away on it daily and it will start to look better to you. Do set standards and hold to them tightly on cleanliness, safety and fire hazards. And when something happens that lands her in the hospital be ready to take action.
It's a tough problem but you can make it better little by little.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

My MIL lived alone in Fla. One son lived in NJ, one Ga., ,one in Miss. So none of us saw her on a regular basis. When we cleaned her house out she has plastic bags full of junk mail in one of her dressers. She bought videos, cassettes and CDs that were still in rappers. Books from Reader digest. Nick nacks that you buy out of those magazines that u pay $20 a month for. I would have loved to have the money she had spent. Bad thing...she complained about not having enough money. I think she didn't know how to stop the mailings.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

This is indeed tricky and my sympathy goes out to you and your mother trying to find the best way to help your grandmother deal with this. My MIL (before she was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer's) started piling up the dining room table with mail and when she was too overwhelmed to even begin going through any of it, she just covered up the first layer with a tablecloth and started afresh. By the time my husband and I got down (to FL from NJ) to assess the situation after being alerted to some problems by a neighbor, she had three layers going and counting. She also was being hit with the same Publisher's Clearing House garbage but also, to our surprise, Readers Digest. There were boxes and boxes of unopened books and magazines and just like a prior poster's mother, was frequently calling to tell us we didn't have to worry about her finances anymore - she was on track to "win" a million dollars. All of these issues are difficult to deal with, especially when it is a loved one and you want to be as gentle as you can. There is really no other way to handle this but to take control in any way you can of the finances, especially checkbook and credit cards, to prevent them from being taken advantage of by these heartless people and entities. Hugs for strength and comfort to you as you navigate these tricky waters.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

EJax21: They keep it because it overwhelms them! My late mother wept about incoming mail. Many also lived through The Great Depression so DO NOT PART WITH ANYTHING! My late mother saved tiny slivers of soap! For what?
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

You might try suggesting that you will help her to organize her things by sorting them into boxes so it will be easier for her to locate her "treasures." After a time, you might then be able to make a box "disappear" here and there without grandmother noticing thereby avoiding upset on her part but still be able to manage at least some of the clutter. I suggest cardboard boxes so that she be unable to see the contents of the boxes but will have the comfort of being able to see the boxes. You might label the boxes, so she can say to herself, "there are my containers" and etc.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

If Granny is a hoarder, you have a problem. Really, no-one has the right to throw out other people's belongings, but I confess that when my mother was doing a stint in rehab, my brother & I attempted to make her home less of a deathtrap by throwing out rubbish (two skips' worth) and clearing a path to the back door, which hadn't been able to be opened in years. Of course my mother sprung us at it (I stupidly answered her phone thinking it might be a concerned friend, and it was Mother herself). She ordered us to desist, so we had to.
She of course was not the least grateful, not that we expected her to be. Her concern was that we wouldn't be able to tell what was rubbish and what wasn't. I'm pretty sure that I know the difference between a bank statement and twenty-five rinsed-out plastic spray bottle tops, or a family photograph and a 2009 Dick Smith catalogue, but nothing we would say made any difference. Any conversations we had with her for months afterwards usually featured some "essential" item that she couldn't find that we THREW OUT. I learned to just ignore these complaints and move on to some other topic. So by all means adopt some of the suggested subterfuges to remove Granny's rubbish, but if she is on the ball mentally other than the hoarding, be prepared to develop a thick skin.
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

Bbtwinks: That will work for all of ten minutes!
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter