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Getting the house in order ain't easy. I like the previous comments about a little at a time. When I visit my parents I always freak at the mess. Junk mail everywhere, rotten food, cases of paper and cleaning products (my dad loves SAMs club. This is the worst thing ever for the elderly!) I've learned to prioritise. The closet can wait, get the fuzzy stuff out of the fridge first. Then every chance I get I start filling up garbage bags but as an earlier post mentioned leave a little of this and that to camouflage your work. When they move out it will be me and my four nephews and a large truck. It'll take a week to get it all out.
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Best advice that I have been given in this caregiving journey, and offer it here: always offer choices. For example, when Mom's doctors said she should not live alone anymore - she was given all other possible choices. I still give her choices frequently because it feels like a conscious respect of her dignity as a person.
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To pay your parents bills you need to be able to access and write checks on their accounts or set up direct deposit. I was lucky to have a POA which I took to the banks and got the paperwork to include my name on their joint accounts. Your parents have to authorize the forms with signatures but it does not have to be notorised and they can sign the papers at home, which avoids the drama of a trip to the bank and meeting with scary people. My mom was ok with this. She was tired of dealing with banking and bills, but dad has some dementia and "everything is just fine like it is. We don't need any help!". The way I approached dad was to say "your bank sent me these papers for you to sign. If anything should ever happen to you and mom I would be able to pay bills for you". Much to my surprise and delight, he said "well that makes sense. Probably should've done that awhile back" . What he doesn't know is that I've been paying all the bills for some time now. It's no big deal at all for me and I know they're not going to get the power turned off or end up paying huge interest fees because the visa bill wasn't paid.
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Setting up automatic payments online for bill payments with alerts from the bank for each check sent is a blessing.
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I agree, a few things here and there, allow the person to have some control. Don't make bug changes all at once, that just makes people more resistant. Getting one's affairs in order is big: try explaining it will help if she becomes ill.....
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Regarding paperwork: I got some bankers boxes and file folders (assuming they don't have a filing system). All paper must be scrutinized as my parents threw the junk mail in with important documents, some vital.
Purchase a dedicated shredder. You may go through more than one. Five years later I'm still sorting 50 years worth of paperwork.
Bit by bit by bit by bit...........
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midkid58 - yes we only threw out the many duplicates of papers that my dad made/collected and only basically junk. there is still plenty of stuff in the house, but not the "junk" papers, plastic bags, pieces of cardboard, etc. we all do what we have to and take care of the rest later.
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Thanks Patrice2oz, I just mimicked business model for accounts payable dept. All done on custom software these days, but easier for a senior to just pick up and look at hard copy of schedule. Especially when alone and has fleeting thoughts of "did I or didn't I pay", can go check and calm self down. Sometimes she can't operate computer, ...loses things, sometimes whole files/folders, ... Anyway, I figure the file box can be purged every year or two to the trash, a good place for her to file special cards and such from relatives where she can find them and enjoy looking at them too.

Ahhh, now, if we could just get better with organizing the clutter. I suppose it isn't hurting anything at this point, but she seems to bring it up a lot, I know it bothers her as she always lived in very clean houses, (her Mom too, kept house spic and span). I dunno, she seems to get lost in the "sorting" part, (as most of us do I guess), but will get hung up on stuff like why did I buy this little pack of buttons? Oh, I know I'll take them in the other room and have a look around in there, see if anything jars my memory! Then, on the way back, think I'll water the plant, see if you've read the article I saved you last week, hey, look at the the kinds of cookies we have, ...Hey, want some coffee? I have 6 kinds. :-) Ummm?
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This post hit a nerve--we moved Mother and Daddy from a 5,000 sf home to an 800 sf apt added on to my brother's home. It took 3 years. Both parents were packrats and we just sighed and took a day here or there to cull through the house. The final push was awful. ALL the stuff that were duplicates, broken, etc were sold at a yard sale and then the sons quickly and discreetly packed up the rest and whisked it away to the Salvation Army. We moved them into their apt..that was horrible and dramatic but after 3 years of culling and cleaning--the house had sold and they had to move. At first the apt was fairly tidy and nice. After dad passed, Mother reverted back to hoarding. Amazing how someone who cannot drive, goes out only with friends to Bingo and one day of swim therapy can accumulate so much garbage! She has 4 cockatiels in one small cage, the filth and mess from those birds is beyond revolting. She saves EVERYTHING!!!!!! My brother and I slowly sneak stuff out to the trash and she usually doesn't notice. We are just more concerned at this point about her tripping and falling than her "feelings". Counter space is 100% covered in junk. I try to clean when brother takes her to longish drs appts and we just do the best we can. Her failing memory has been a sad blessing--she cannot remember if she still has this or that item. I try to respect her home as I clean--so really, I just clean and throw out scummy flowers, old newspapers and junk mail and such. She fought us for a while, but now she is so bent over from back problems she cannot see above the 3' mark. We can clean "up high" as it were and she doesn't notice. Sad--she has priceless Lladro statues cheek and jowl with McDonalds Happy Meal toys. To her--same value. I think that says it all.
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yes that is one thing about helping an elder clean stuff up and out. we now take notice to our own "clutter" and start to de-clutter. That was a good idea with the phone to take pictures of where stuff is, as long as it stays in that place for when you look for it later. any suggestions are helpful on here. I will remember that for I am sure that our mother will at some point in the next couple of years start "moving" things.
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My mother has early Alzheimer's and is starting to get more forgetful without reminding. She is a hoarder...especially about food. But she also saves every single plastic bag she gets, and all sorts of storage containers and much other stuff. Spends her time entering contests like Publisher's Clearing House....and just mostly keeps things dusted and vacuumed, but her closets and cupboards are packed. She is alone, but now owns 2 refrigerators, both packed to the gills etc. One thing I've learned is that if I clean something out and leave any kind of space on a shelf, she will fill it again with something, and if I clean it ALL out....as in ALL the old plastic bags, she will notice they are gone and be in a big HUFF about it....so I always leave 'some' behind....and now she seems to forget how much she had, as long as she sees 'something' there. I just leave her food alone, but I will NOT eat at her house, unless I brought it with me, or was with her at the grocery or can see an expiration date. She doesn't get sick from it, but she's been eating this way for years. I am not taking the chance with my gut!! I tell her nicely, that eating old food, is not getting the right nutrition. I've tossed out bags and bags of outdated stuff a couple times before....like when she broke her hip and was in the hospital. But she will just go shopping for grocery sales and fill it right up again. Same with clothes. EVERY drawer is packed with clothes, that are years old and still have tags on them, yet she wears her rags even to go out in public. She is 89 yrs old and saving them for 'good'! They will just all be donated. But, to the one who said they will just sell the house, as is....I cannot do that because my Mom hides money too.... up to $1000 in various places that I've found at times. So I'll have to go through everything! She hides in slippers; in a bowling bag; underneath the garbage can bag in her bathroom, among her towels and in her clothing drawers. It's terrible, but I cannot convince her, so I just snoop around when I am there and try to keep track of where it is. I've found that my phone camera is a great thing for taking pictures of where things are as I find them too. On a weeks visit this past week, my daughter and I, were able to clean out a huge linen closet and give away a bunch of sheets and blankets and her medicine cupboard and toss out all expired meds. She had asked for that help though...and was involved in all decisions. But, to show her level of forgetfulness....two days after we had finished the linen closet, she went to look for a blanket and stood there yelling...." What happened to all my sheets???" and only remembered helping us do this with our discussing it with her. I took pictures of every shelf in both cupboards, so when she cannot find something, I can be reminded on my phone, where and how we organized them for her. My husband and I are starting our own downsizing/cleanup project here. We do a major room every year....and go through our shed every spring.....toss toss toss....minimize wherever we can!
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when my dad went into nursing home, i slowly started going thru kitchen cabinets, and house (of course we had to find stuff for the elder attorney). brother helped but we found loads of stuff no longer needed, but put that off for another day. anything that was expired I threw away and mom was sitting there and said no problem. I told her you cannot use expired food from 1 year ago (can stuff). we have more to go thru, but my mom understood, but apparently my dad thought otherwise before going into NH. I would find "bottles/bottles" of natural stuff that had expired for 6 years or more. I would throw them out only to find more about a week or two later, so heaven only knows where he had them stashed. be careful though, some people don't want a third outsider person in their home. Good luck
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New2this you are so organized! I just threw out the gas and electric bill receipts for the past 5 years. I have convinced my dad that is the bill he is looking at shows the last payment, trash last months bill. This is my thought now: everything is computerized and if you needed to find out what you paid for gas last year that you could call and get total. I trash old bills if all ok and only keep one month. I see all the papers that i save and just get so overwhelmed. Wish they would all just disappear!
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My mother has so much stuff in her home, and I am so far away from her, that I will sell the house, contents and all - if possible.
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My husband secretly got mom's checking account information and established online access. That way he could see if she was paying her bills. He discovered she did not pay taxes, water bills or MD co pays. If your elder decides the property taxes are unfair and does not pay them, they can unwittingly lose the home on a county tax auction for a mere pittance. Be vigilant.
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If there are a couple of siblings trying to get her house in order - possibly have one of you take Mom out to lunch or shopping while the other cleans and gets things taken care of. As for the bills - doing them with her is what worked for us. Best of wishes for you all.
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Bills, if she's still fairly sharp and you can drop in every week, get a cute decorative basket for incoming mail, for the wall or to set out, tell her put just the bills in there, and right away when she brings in the mail. Set her up a system to do herself, haha, (that you'll do with her each week). Type up a little bill schedule in chronological order: Co Name, Due Date, target amount usually paid, then put an underlined area to be checked off in pen on same line for each item beside Paid__, Last Paid____, Check No._____. Get a cheap box of manila folders, write alphabet on them, put them in order in a plastic or cardboard box to be kept in closet until you're there each week. Put her "bill schedule" on a clipboard, toss it in the front of the box where she, (and you), can easily glance at it and tell what is going on at anytime. File the customer's retention copies alphabetically behind the schedule as a back up. She will undoubtable see you are helping organize and being a safety net and quite transparent. Then as she becomes more forgetful she'll recognize her system when you have to point things out, (and eventually take full charge), it won't look foreign to her and will coincide with the checkbook. You can get the box out together, glance at the calendar, schedule, see what needs paid this week, you can write them out to speed things up, have her sign them and help stuff envelopes. I bought some stamps and return address labels too, to keep in the "kit" to speed things up.

Ugghh. The clutter. How many plastic butter tub lids does one need? Apparently, 50. :-) They work great for feeding the cat kitty treats. Several on floor at a time, since they were free. (?) Ummm, or just by the cat a silly cat dish, and keep that washed, put treats in there? Nope, we need a couple draws stuffed full of free lids. And it needs to be the right lid for the right application each time, of course. Well, something to work on in the future. Whole place is stuffed with neat little treasures like that. Floor gets vacuumed, fridge, kitchen sink and bath facilities very clean, but much clutter here and there and no system for where to put things. Everytime I fire her up with idea of "mini face lift" for a room, new paint color, curtains, (but 1st the clutter has to go-you know, just coincidentally of course), Stepfather resists or brings in more of his "neat little treasures" and junks up newly cleaned shelves, drawers, surfaces. Ugghhh! :-)
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That information was very helpful! I've been throwing stuff out at my mom's house and it has caused so much tension! It seemed obvious to me that these things should be discarded, but in hindsight, I guess it was too much loss of independence for her.
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I agree with the other posts, a third party may be your best bet. There are a plethora of organizations that can be an advocate for you and your parent. The bottom line is your parents/loved ones safety and well being. Another company you may want to reach out to, Caring Transitions is a nation-wide company that offers a number of services during this process. They can come in and help sort/organize, clean out, remove trash, donations, etc... Good luck, don't feel like you have to do it by yourself!
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If you can get your mom to do the tasks with you, she might feel better about the process. I would also involve another person if possible - a neutral advocate like a Geriatric Care Manager.caremanager. I friend of mine cleaned out her mom's refrigerator without her consent (lots of moldy, expired food) and the mom changed the locks on the house. If you feel you'll get a lot of push back, a 3rd party can help you both through the process.
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Patrice has the right idea,"slowly, slowly catchee monkey" establishing trust is the way to go. Right now I am facing the possibility of downsizing and I am a pack rat. I would not say hoarder but I do keep useful things towards my crafting hobbies. I realize I may never need to use them but i rarely have to purchase odds and ends. i just shop in my craft room. At this stage I am generaly tidying up and reducing. I don't totally get rid of things I just reduce the numbers. one example is crochet hooks. I have a collection from the finest lace size up to granny squares. The tiniest ones I inherited or they were in a bundle I found at a thrift store for a few cents. now all I have ever crocheted has been lap robes and I will never use the lace ones so half of them will go but I may keep one or two so that I can pick up a run in a fine sweater. I know if I leave things as they are the kids will have to come through with a dumpster.
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sometimes a third party who has already done it. Or ask her to go with you to a seminar on the topic and do it yourself & let her be your advisor & support during the process so she can understand the importance of having her house in order. Nothing hurts a parent more than having their children suggest she is no longer trusted being independent. It's human nature. I just found out while doing it for myself that even if you have a will and don't have a revocable trust. or an non-revocable trust that the estate will go into probate. Now I have to make sure that it's in place. what a pain in the neck. I have downloaded a print out and am trying to do it myself because a lawyer will charge over 2000.00 to do it.
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I know when I was helping my uncle, I had to go down and write out checks for him and then I would clean bathroom. I started slowly, did a little at a time. Finally he let me forward all bills to my house and take his checkbook but it took about a year. If he was in the living room, I would go rhey stuff in kitchen. Easier if he was occupied elsewhere then looking at what I was throwing out. Good luck this one is not easy.
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