How can we force our "hoarder" mother to not be counterproductive when we are fixing the house to bring dad home?

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My father is in "respite" care, following a stroke and HSV encephalitis. My sister and I have been working our butts off on my parents house to make all of the safety changes necessary (like replacing the carpet that was lumpy and a fall hazard, cleaning all the MASSIVE amounts of 50 years of junk and purchases everywhere.


We both have jobs and families as well, and are trying to complete this as fast as we can so he can be home with familiarity and memories, etc. He was her caregiver, because she has health issues, (such as fibromyalgia, neuropathy, afib, etc) and he enabled her for all these years. We have already filled 1 dumpster, and have nearly another 20 yard dumpster filled, and mother keeps taking things back out of the donation boxes, that she wants to keep. She can't keep all this junk. It is costing private pay to keep him where he is currently, and I know she wants him home, but she just doesn't seem to get that she can't continue the same behavior patterns. Then she renewed a magazine subscription, after I explained that wasn't a good idea and to read what she already has saved out of our give away boxes, but she is not listening. Then, she purchased 1255. dollars of dehydrated food from a tv evangelist one night......GRRRRR.


We haven't finished throwing away all of the other stuff and she is moving stuff back in.. I took a credit card from her but found out she has the number memorized. What do we do?? Thank goodness she doesn't drive, or she would spend all of his money on stupid un-necessary things. She's making us crazy.

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How are you going to handle having dad home after a stroke/HSV? He will need around the clock care. That means people coming/ going. Are you expecting mom handle this with her issues? Your dad can't take care of her now.
She might start barring caregivers from the home. Or worse, say that she can help, but you will find out she cant. Hoarding effects the mind. She will have huge meltdowns or ignore you. Hoarding is a huge sign she's not coping. Everyone can see the fire hazard, mold, safety issues. The hoarder can't see these issues. They are not dealing in reality. They have a toe hold in reality, but not really.

If you clean out a spot for dad, it will get filled back in around him. The hoarding continues. It doesn't stop bc you cleaned. Cleaning, and your dad's issues will trigger more hoarding, more meltdowns.

Do you think caretakers will work 8hrs in a house they can barely move around in? Does dad have a commode next to the bed, need a trail to the bathroom? Is the bathroom/tub accessible even for caregivers to use? Carertakers might call adult services because of the health hazard, safety issues. Thinking their doing it for the safety of your dad. They won't care your trying your best to deal with mom.

I see moms issues as a HUGE problem. With dad you can pick up the phone and get him placed or get help. I'd move them to nursing home, and assisted living. In an apt she will cont to hoard. You just moved the problem. They will get evicted in no time. She needs round the clock monitoring too.

If you try to get them in anywhere, DO NOT NOT NOT tell them mom hoards! They wont take her! Do not confide in them. They want you to, so they know ALL the family issues. They are not your friends! They are hired help to help with a placement.
The hoarding would be curtailed without car, $, activities, people always around. They see it as a problem avoided. There will never be an opening at any facility. I have heard where hoarders volunteer at memory care, and the hoarding has just about stopped bc they have friends, activities, and active life now. They dont need that to release stress.

You need to move them. Then get the junk guys and the place cleaned for sale. It will keep getting filled the moment you turn your back. You have not stopped the primary issue hoarding. You just cleaned an area to store more crap.

You can't put a band aid over that situation. You will end up getting sick from stress.
Like everyone says get poa, and get control of her spending ASAP. She shouldnt have access to a phone either, because she will cont to order from the tv. Get mail sent to P.O. Box. She will order from magazines & mail. She will get new credit & cards from offers sent. Send back the horrible order from televangelist. That could be a months worth of $ used for dad's meds.

Mom will just pull everything back out of the dumpster, cry, scream, meltdown, and then as soon as your back is turned go get more.

While you are waiting for POA, You have got to call the credit card company ASAP, and say she lost the card. They will cancel it. That will stop the buying for now. Then make sure you get the New card out of the mail before she does!
Better get all the mail while your at it, she will find bank statements and order checks, a new card so she has more $. She will open NEW accounts, and credit.
Scammers can also start calling her wanting $$$. They also scam by selling her worthless items, or say they are selling new windows, gutters etc. They do cold calls hoping to find an elderly person who they can scam.
You need a clean slate and to get both out of the house, and control the finances. The hoarding won't stop otherwise.
I think you are woefully naive about the situation or in denial. She hoards to relieve her stress. You bringing dad back, and caregivers and dumpsters, taking her stuff without asking will make the situation worse. Good luck.
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Reply to Jasmina
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didiblue52 Aug 19, 2018
Your assessment of the situation is right on! We were dealing with this until last January. Both now live in assisted care with my hoarder mom moving to the memory side of the AL soon.
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Hording is a mental illness that can't be forced into changing. Has she been seen by a gerontologist to be evaluated for dementia? You may be dealing with a sick mind focused on hording and a broken brain that is demented and thus can't be reasoned with. I suggest that you start with having a doctor evaluate her. Unless she can be declared incompetent to handle her money in a business like manner, then you really can't force her to do anything, however wrong it may be.
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Reply to cmagnum
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I will agree that this may be a sign of dementia more than hoarding. She does not sound capable of managing her finances (credit, checking, etc.) I would have her assessed by her doctor or a specialist. If she has dementia, even early stages, she will NOT be able to care for your father when he returns or credit cards and finances.

If you do not currently have DPOA, explore whether both are still capable (and willing) to sign the required paperwork. Please use an Elder Care attorney AND inquire if they include "digital" access in the document - one CC allowed me to use the DPOA, which let me discuss with them, close or freeze account and use the phone system to check purchases, but would NOT allow me to have online access or order a card (she would misplace it, ask me to cancel and then reorder, meanwhile the old card would show up! I would try to reorder via her phone and needed to get her okay for me to talk to them, but she could not hear them!)

The problem with allowing them/her to continue handling finances is people who scam by phone (include those TV offers too) or in person. She could potentially give away the "farm." If she has not been declared incompetent, and she signs or agrees on the phone to anything, you likely cannot get out of it or reimbursed.

If they/she are not competent, you will have to file for guardianship and conservatorship (relates to personal decisions/financial decisions.) Without DPOA or guardianship/conservatorship there is not much you can do.

As for cleaning out stuff - do NOT leave anything where she has access to it! When mom started digging out old paperwork and thinking it was new, there was no real way to get her to understand (once it was on the kitchen table, it 'just came in the mail'.) I had my brother take her out and "swept" the place for all the paperwork I could find. I had once, prior to this, tried to talk her into going through clothes to get rid of what was too small, but she waved me off. I had not checked around the condo or I would have pushed harder or done the "get her out and sweep the place." After we moved her to MC and started to take care of stuff, then we realized she saved everything she ever bought from Marshall's and TJMaxx - clothes, purses, shoes galore!!!! She had 4-5 of those porta-closets, in addition to all closets, drawers, boxes, bags, anything she could keep stuff in. Sure, it was all, as she said, 'nice', but much outdated and most would not fit her anymore. It has taken 1.5 years to clean it out and get it on the market!!! It is about 1.5 hours each way for me, I cannot handle heavy items and despite going several times/month and getting limited help from brothers, it still took this long!!
Although she had all these clothes, I did not consider it true hoarding, just keeping "nice" stuff. As far as having multiples of items, she would buy stuff, put it away and forget she had it, and then buy more. She accused my brother of stealing her tweezers (seriously mom?), I got her another and on cleaning found at least 3 in her bathroom and about 6-8 in a plastic container in the dresser drawer. NOT hoarding, just memory lapse.

Summary:
1) get her assessed (understand that she can "show-time", aka dupe PC doc)
2) explore DPOA or guardianship/conservatorship
3) determine if they can remain in the home alone/care for each other properly
4) have someone take her out for a bit and clear out stuff each time
5) take said stuff, trash or donation items, away with you that day
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Reply to disgustedtoo
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Can you get a professional to assess the situation? You may have great intentions about moving your dad back where he can be in familiar surroundings but will it be safe? How much damage did the stroke do? Is he going to be able to get around the house when (not if- when) your mom clutters it up again?
My SIL had a lot of trouble finding caregivers who were willing to go into her hoarder aunt's home to help. If your mom is truly in need of assistance and now your dad is too, they might be better off in another living situation.
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Reply to Marcia7321
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First I would check into the financial aspect of all this as well as clearing out the house. (You might have to limit credit card amounts, or close them)
Some of what you are describing are signs of Dementia as well. Saving things, irrational spending, not comprehending why things need to be done despite repeating the reasons again and again.
So the question is Can your Dad take care of your Mom, can your Mom care for your Dad?
Would it be better to sell the house and move them both to a Senior community that has the full range from active seniors, Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care so that they will not have to move as either declines. If you compare the expenses of owning a house and all that goes with it to the single expense of Assisted Living what is the difference each month. And it might be possible that if they start as private pay from the proceeds from the sale of the house application for Medicaid later the facility will often accept the Medicaid more easily than if they were to move in on Medicaid.
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Reply to Grandma1954
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I just gave up with my parents. I couldnt even get rid of a dining menu from the hospital lol.
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Mojorox Aug 27, 2018
My mom still had junk mail from 1972.....sigh
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As soon as an agency caregiver or Home Health staff member (SS or Nurse or CNA) steps into your parents' house and sees all of the stuff being hoarded, that person will contact the local Adult Protective Services or whatever agency has to be contacted about unsafe living situations.  Then a local government agency will get involved whether you like it or not and demand that something be done about all of the stuff.  They will not allow your Dad to live in such unhealthy conditions and may even refuse to let him go home or demand that he move to an assisted living or nursing home until such time that your Mom and your family can make the house safe and sanitary again.

Take care of your Father first and find him someplace that is safe and healthy for him to live in.  THEN you can address the hoarding problems with your Mother. 

I agree--watch some of the "Hoarders" TV shows--especially those that are about a family member not being able to return home from the hospital because the house is unsafe and unhealthy to live in.  This is not a problem that started overnight and it is a problem that can not be solved overnight either.  Good Luck and God Bless.
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Reply to DeeAnna
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Jasmina Aug 19, 2018
- totally agree with your answer.
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Wtch a few of the episodes of the tv series Hoarders. You can find them on YouTube. Try separating the issues of mom's hoarding and where dad should live. Solve dad first. Mom's issues will take a lot longer and may never be resolved to the point where it's safe for dad now.
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Reply to vegaslady
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My in-laws lived in their home 50+ years and never threw away one single thing. My husband begged them for years to move but they just couldn't leave the house and their stuff. And my mil was/is a hoarder. After my fil died we left the house as is and moved my mil to a senior community in the state we live in and she bought everything new (despite the fact that she hoards money as well - which at least means she has plenty of it, but doesn't like spending it at all). My husband took her back to her home a few months later and spent a few weeks trying to sort through stuff with her. It was a disaster and far too emotionally draining for her. Bottom line, she was happy to get back to her clean, new, apartment. There was nothing pretty or nice about the old home. My husband ended up taking three weeks doing the dumpster/donation thing and packing a small pod of things to bring back. It was an enormous job, but now it's done, the house is sold and my mil is actually very happy where she is and that she no longer has to deal with a house. We were so afraid that she would constantly say she missed it too much, but the opposite is true. She also seems to like keeping her new place nice and simple as she has friends come over. I believe it's far better for most elderly to go into a senior living situation where there are things to do and people their age to be around. They think they really want to stay at home because of course it's where they've always been, but for most, while it's not a perfect situation (because there really is not one at this point) it's by far the best one and much easier on family and children.
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Reply to orlando101
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I feel your pain! My dad went driving around all day, spending THOUSANDs on crap he didn’t need. Sprinkler parts, tarps, he owns 9 drills, sanding supplies, pool chemicals, lottery tickets, etc.... even though he had a suspended license. Because we live 3 hours away, we didn’t see the full extent of it until he took a fall and we forcibly moved him closer to us in a one bedroom apartment. He insists he “needs” scalers, paint brushes, razor cutters, etc in his apartment - and trying to explain that he isn’t ALLOWED to do maintenance is a losing battle. He has “borrowed” tools from “the guy downstairs” (still trying to figure out if he’s out knocking on doors all day looking for stuff) and has been in the leasing office DAILY asking for glue, paperwork, paint scrapers...
he ao t let anyone come into his apartment to take care of him, so an aide or companion is out of the question. I am stopping over 2-3 times a day trying to piece together where he’s been and who he has bothered for things. I told him he cannot keep bothering the leasing agents and he simply states “so what! If I got a question I’m gonna Go ask it!” He just doesn’t get it!
if he gets kicked out of his 55+ apartment because he is doing strange things and borrowing items, and pestering the management, then assisted living is next for him.
my advice- get RID of any purchasing power your mom has. Do whatever you can immediately. Then, understand that just because the credit card is gone, the underlying issue is still there. Don’t try to reason with her- in her Mind, she makes perfect sense.
Siunds like both parents need round the clock care, but for different reasons.
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Toadhall Aug 21, 2018
My mom was against having an aid as well. When I interviewed agencies, the one I hired had a way of dealing with this issue. They told me they were willing to send their aid and a supervisor to try to bring my mom around. They told me one client hid in the bathroom for the first two visits of 2 hours. They talked to her through the door and enticed her out. My mom ignored the aid but when she saw me interacting with her, we did a craft project, she wanted in on it. Has your dad seen a doctor. Sometimes an antidepressant or a drug for dementia would make him feel better.
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