Live-in relative going into our bedrooms and going through our stuff when we are not home. Any advice?


When my 84 y.o. relative moved in I thought it was reasonable to assume that she would not go into our rooms since there is nothing there that is hers. Wrong assumption. She started it after a few months.

Growing up and as adults her family had no boundaries. So she expects me to have no boundaries. In her was ok for us to go downstairs into her rooms anytime so...therefore it should be ok for her to do that with our space. She views it as horrible when she hears of an elderly person being restricted from going into the host family bedrooms.

First I tried removing everything in our area of the house that she would use like cleaning supplies or anything else. Then I asked her to stop. She didn't...decided to dry mop our hardwood floors so she could open our doors and snoop. Finally, I locked the bedroom doors...huge drama...I don't trust her etc....then she promised not to go into the bedrooms again. I did not mention it again.

This week, four years later, I felt that this was going on again and found out that not only was she going into our bedroom, she was going through our stuff when I wasn't home--left video cam on in the room for the short time I was gone. She does not have dementia or Alzheimer.

She is only left alone for 30 min when I take my adult child to work and 30 min when I take him home once a week. This has become her time to get into our rooms and stuff. I can't take her with us on these trips because my adult child does not want to ride in the care with her...and her constant questions would set my adult child up for anxiety and a bad day at just is not possible.

I don't know what to do about this. I feel violated. I am trying to think of a no drama way to stop this behavior since she has high blood pressure and it goes up immediately when she gets upset, but she obviously lied to me and has decided she will put on a show of respecting our privacy when we are home and then when we are out, she can do whatever she wants.

I feel like a prisoner in my house. I feel like I can't go out and get things done with my adult child who is disabled...I need to be training and working with my child. It makes me feel insecure because I don't know what is happening with my things.

She is nearly 89 and has had a stroke a couple of years ago and is a very difficult person to have in our home for so many reasons. She is here because she really did not have the money to go into a retirement place and she could no longer do the upkeep with her townhome and frankly was not making ends meet. She is not renting from us or anything...then she would be back to not making ends meet.

I feel it is a small thing to ask for privacy given this is about all I have asked her to do. I am wearing out for many reasons. Seeing her paw through our stuff just put me over the edge. I never ever go through any of her stuff. When she is out at the beauty shop no one disturbs her things ever. But she feels it is her right? as a member of the household to do this?

How do I stop this behavior or what can I do with this? She doesn't break things or steal things that I know of but I can't stand this.

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You say you do not go through her stuff when she is out. Do it and let your relative know her things were snooped through. Perhaps a taste of her own medicine will stop her invasion of your privacy.
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Sounds like she may need either a home-health aide/companion who can keep her occupied and give her some company. Also, many larger townships now have their own senior centers who offer activities and meals during the day, and they can be picked up and dropped off by designated vans. She could be there between 9am to 3pm, and that would occupy a greater part of her day.

I know about this because my own township offers this service.
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This is not just a problem, it has turned into a nightmare. You have graciously taken in a relative for reasons which we have not yet been given, nor do we know who this person is, i.e. aunt, MIL, grandmother, etc. She has her own townhouse which she can not afford to live in due to financial reasons. She has had a stroke sometime in the past. She snoops when you are out of the house. She has her own lovely space in your home which you have so generously provided. She has unsanitary habits i.e. the dishwasher/dirty hands/garbage. You have suffered immense losses i.e. deaths, your own health, the health of your son is your utmost concern and you are just plain worn out. You've not mentioned your spouse. Where is your spouse in all of this? Surely your son should have his support and wellbeing as well as being there for you. Is he helping with any of this? I am asking because your post is unclear in some areas. Is this relative contributing to your household financially? Did you make a promise to take care of this person? Please don't misunderstand my asking - I can relate to some of what you've been going through. My concern is for all of you living in your home. You are dealing with several issues, not just one.
Strokes can cause so many behaviors which are hard to diagnose. Your first thing would be to get her (and I'm going to assume it is a "her") evaluated by her primary doctor or a geriatric doctor who specializes in the elderly. And there may be something else wrong physically. It has been shown that elderly can be sneaky. The fact that she waits until you are out of the home to snoop is a red flag. So does she really know what she is doing or is she bored or just looking for something to do. No matter what, she has overstepped her boundaries by entering your private quarters. Yes, locking the doors can be a solution, but do you also want to use a key every time you want to go into your bedroom for something? Should not be necessary. If she owns the townhome and has equity (another unknown) make arrangements to sell it, look for an assisted living place and use the proceeds to fund her stay and when the funds run out, she can become a Medicaid recipient. Check with your local or county office for the elderly and ask for their help. Your son and his disability is your most important charge in life along with your own health. If you are not healthy, you are no good to anyone and then they all lose and you the most. Bless you for being the kind of person who cares. You are a caregiver with a heart of compassion, but I can read from your post, you are just about out of energy. You definitely need a break and having a week or so of respite is in order. If I was there I'd come in a heartbeat. Could you have her go to her townhome with a caregiver staying with her for a few days - another option if you can manage it. Again, I urge you to take care of yourself first and reclaim your life and health. Hugs.
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Just lock your doors. You're an adult and you have a right to your privacy. She does not have a right to invade that privacy. This is called "tough love, just say no." Her BP is her responsibility, not yours.
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I have a sister who likes to snoop. She no longer stays overnight at my house. You can't change long-standing habits of socialization. I would play that videotape for her and keep the camera in place. Inform her that if she is caught again, she is OUT the door permanently.
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" Seriously? Well, I guess so or you wouldn't have posted." ... me

" Yes, this is a serious thing when the house has yes...seriously.." ... you

" It is just too much to have someone going through my things as wimpy as that sounded to the first replier." ... you

So, Mewlan, I am the first replier and I'd like to share that it was never my intention to imply that you were acting in a wimpy manner. I'm afraid you misinterpreted the first sentence of my answer, quoted above in this response, which was intended to convey surprise that anyone you would offer your home to, as you have, would be havin such a way. And then, as the remaining six paragraphs suggest what I thought was very sensitive way of handling your relative in a way that would cause both you and her the most minimal amount of stress.

After psychological training, I participated as a volunteer call receiver for a helpline/suicide prevention center for 5 years. Two of the primary things one learns is "Active Listening" & NEVER to blame the victim, so I beg you not to take what I'm going to say next as an attack on you. You obviously came here for needed support but you started out by not posting all of the pertinent details. I'm sure you didn't purposely mean to be vague, but why not refer to this lady who is living in your house as what she is, grandmother, aunt, cousin, mother in law, etc. rather than "relative" and "she", leaving us guessing. And that this lady upsets your "adult child" whom we discover, as we read on, is a "he" and is "disabled", then learn only in your second post that the issue for the "he" who is apparently your son is autism, which sheds a completely different light on your relatives who is disturbing him.

While your first post indicated your primary concern was the clear invasion of your privacy. My opinion and that of many others was that it had to stop, and there were many suggestions of how to do that. But we were rather much stabbing in the dark with what I think or mild suggestions for what sounded like a mild problem.

However, in your second post, we see a much more serious portrait of what's going on and how harmful this is to your family structure. In addition to caring now and laying down future plans for your adult autistic son, you have experienced an array of illness and death that in and of itself would be enough for anyone human being to deal with. On top of that, you've had surgery that seems to have gone bad and left you with nerve damage (what? possibly neuromas?) that need to be treated with pain medication.

Thru all of that, you have bent over backwards in the most kind of ways and opened your home to your Madame X, who has not respected your privacy or your boundaries (and never did, apparently), as well as practicing unsanitary home care habits as she undoubtedly believes she is attempting to help.

You only need refer to my profile to find my history of experience with dementia. On that basis, I'm going to somewhat disagree with the fact that Madame knows she's doing wrong because she only does it when you're gone. I do believe if you would get her evaluated by a neuropsychiatrist, you would find some level of dementia, possibly even vascular dementia left over from the stroke. It is also fairly common for pre and post stroke patients to have TIAs, which can further damage the brain.

What I'm really wanting you to understand from my post here is that with your new information given only secondarily, I feel this situation is much more critical for your own personal sanity then you made it sound in the first post. I will also say that I completely misunderstood your reference to Madame living downstairs as being a separate apartment, which I now understand with an incorrect assumption.

Now, I would suggest that your next move is her evaluation ASAP, to discover her honest condition and find out in your heart of hearts if you're able to continue doing with it. You have been a good caretaker so far, for as long as you've been able to, but there is no shame in seeking placement. If she is evaluated as not being able to live alone because of some type of dementia or memory loss. In her financial situation, as you have described it, she should be eligible for Medicaid, which will pay for memory care.

It is pretty clear to me that you and your son are in crisis over this situation. I know it's very difficult to step back and say I can't do this anymore when you have made the previous commitment to care take. Folks on this forum go through this every day. Ones who have promised their loved one to keep them at home many times come to the fork in the road and realize that they have to "break their word" and place the patient in a facility. It causes grief and anguish, and many times guilt. But the truth is, when you made a promise, you had no idea how bad it would get, how hard it would be, or what other things you would be experiencing in your life.

As I have said many times before, when you put someone in a facility, if you are still over seeing their care (which is very good to plan on, because all seniors need a caring advocate, IMO), there will be plenty of work to keep you busy at the administrative level but you will no longer be exhausting yourself with either physical care or emotional worries that you have when someone is living under your roof.

I don't believe there's anything wimpy about what you have done or gone through. imeone, a comedian I think, said that growing old isn't for cowards. Well, neither is caretaking. It is a relatively thankless job and labor of love. Only each individual can know inside themselves when you have reached your limit.
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Mewlan, given all that you've been through lately, with your parents' death and ongoing care for your child, I think maybe you just need a plain old break. At least as a first step. Some assisted-living-type places will take seniors on a temporary basis for exactly this reason. Would this be an option for you?

It might not hurt for your relative to be reminded that there are other places besides your home that she might find herself living in, as well.
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Re. my adult child is a kind helpful sweet person but has to have a calm predictable home environment especially when school was so hard on my child. It was simply awful to watch the suffering my child endured and I tried to help all the time to make sure life was doable.

I am wearing down and I can't wear down. This is getting too much.
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Yes, this is a serious thing when the house has yes...seriously..

There are no video/nanny cams in my house...I used an ipod on a single day. Re. her feeling imprisoned/etc., that is not the case at all...she is well cared for. I had installed a beautiful grass garden (her favorite) outside her bedroom window. I take her on erands and to a restaurant 2x per week. We have coffee and each day for most days which she likes. If she wants chocolate chip cookies I bake them. If she wants roasted chicken from the store I get it. I take her to all doctors and allow her privacy. She took over nearly half our home...has a lovely bedroom with walkin closet, the spacious family room, laundry room on that floor, and her own bathroom with a shower, new rugs her choice of carpet, newly painted walls. So three of us live in about the same size space that she alone lives in. We share the kitchen can be installed down there. I have a beautiful deck off the kitchen in a lovely neighborhood with a beautiful garden she can enjoy any time. Trust me, she is not in prison here and has been the most responsibility free and free from worry about financial stuff in all her life as she is right now. She tells everyone what a wonderful person I am taking care of her and I'm exhausted from all of this and a lot of other crazy making things.

We had a great relationship until the move in when she tried to take over my home. Lots of health related issues had to be addressed like her pushing down garbage, not washing her hands and then emptying the dishwasher...clean dishes, with hands contaminated with the kitchen garbage. The only way I could handle it was to stop her helping doing that...more drama. Lots of drama as I had to set boundaries for my family's sanity and health safety.

I agree with the early signs of dementia...because it seems she is changing...not like herself. My mom had a very subtle decline into dementia. Maybe that is what is happening. There has been a pretty much life long problem with boundaries in that side of the family, but I truly did not know how bad until the move in and the 24/7 reality set in.

But I agree she does know this is wrong since she is doing it when I am not home.

About a year after she moved in I had surgery and then 2 years later I got a terrible painful nerve condition that is controlled by meds now. I am just exhausted from getting my disabled child through highschool, then horrible hospice death of father (I was there for that) and even more horrific hospice death of mother (there, lots of traveling), and now this. I was done with this aspect of caregiving 3 years ago. I need a lot more rest myself now because I did not recover from the surgery well and had related health issues and then the nerve pain thing and still a full plate with future planning for my adult child. It is just too much to have someone going through my things as wimpy as that sounded to the first replier. Like 3 days out of 7 I feel like I need a caregiver but that is never going to happen.

I'm going to implement some of these good suggestions and see where this goes but I think I may be just be out of personal physical health resources to continue this.
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Agree that you need to lock the doors of places she doesn't need to be. You may worry that it will offend her, but it is a lot less offensive than her going through your things. She knows what she is doing is wrong or she wouldn't wait until you were gone to do it. If all hell breaks loose, she is the one who caused it to happen. You do not need to feel bad. You opened your home to her, which is quite a lot to do for someone. I think we all have a feeling that we're doing wrong if we go through people's private things. If she is in her right mind, she will know she violated your territory and trust.
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