Mom is 88. Her home is very dirty. She can't clean her home and will not let anyone else clean. What are our options?

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Me and my sisters live around the country, not in the same city as our mother. When we visit we try to clean but instead she assigns up jobs like sorting out batteries or reorganizing a shelf. If we try to push her to get help or if we try to clean up ourselves, she becomes very aggressive.

For the last 10 years her home has been quite dirty and filled with all sorts of things she doesn't need but she will not let us do anything about it, although she constantly complains that she can't get other things taken care of because her house is a mess and needs to be cleaned up. She has a long history of mental illness but she is functional and very smart.

She is now 88 and her health has declined somewhat in the last year, to the point where a friend of hers called me to state that the house was in very bad shape. We realize that we each need to visit her more and ensure that her house is safe for her to be in. We also realize that we need to visit her more to ensure that her home is safe.

She does not listen to any of her children so convincing her of the need to clean her home is not going to happen. She also lies regularly so she might say she is going to do something and then she does not.

We believe that having a home care aide come in to her house several times a week would provide her with some company, make sure her home is safe, and attend to errands, etc. However, her house is not clean or safe enough for an attendant to come to at this point. She says she would be willing to have a home care aide come in, but is not willing to have the house cleaned to the point where that could happen (which could be her passive aggressive of saying she doesn't want a home care aide in the first place).

My sisters and I feel we are at a standstill--we want to know that her living situation is not safe but short of forcibly removing her from the home and sending in a cleaning crew, what are our options?

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My husband's parents and we went through the exactly same experience as abbazgirl. we live in tennessee and parents live in CA. Before we were finished with trying to provide care, daddy, who had dementia and lived until a month short of 100 years, had given away his wife's money and community property to the people next door. The scammers kept mother's money while she died in poverty. I have papers from 5 court appearances we went through to keep mother safe from him. $70,000. Santa Clara County Adult protective services dropped all my complaints and aided in the demolition of the family and our resources. I have 2,000 pages of legal documents which I intend to film as a documentary of what we went through to secure mother's resources and provide her care. Being out of state, this was expensive and time consuming, completely destroyed our lives in our own so called retirement. Unbelievable. I don't know about other states, but California will screw your family out of their end-of-life resources in the direst time of need.
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My mother's situation is similar, but I feel worse - inside cats, animal excrement everywhere, maggots in kitchen, etc. Re Social Services - they said as long as she has running water, food (albeit it is spoiled) in fridge, and toilet, there is nothing they can do. Her Dr. says she is just old. After 8 mos of paying a housekeeper, they have quit, Mother will not cooperate in any attempt to keep anything clean. If it has a flat surface, she will feed canned cat food and let the cats defecate/urinate on it. Siblings just don't go to see her. I am at my wits end on what to do.
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Madeaa, yes indeed, it is amazing what we have to go through sometimes...

When my mom was younger and brought crap from rentals home, she's get really pissed when that crap disappeared. My mom would stash it in her sun room, I'd find stuff piling up and toss it. Like I said, I claimed ignorance. H*ll, somebody stole it all for all I knew... As she got older, she'd forget about it, which made it a lot easier.

And if people truly feel their lives are in danger, and I was one of them with my mom for different reasons, well, you do what you have to do. No, no one should be required to die caring for elderly parents, and yes indeed, sometimes it's time to call in the big guns and get other help, for their sake as well as yours. One person, one body, one mind, can only give so much before, as you said, Madeaa, it sucks the life and vitality right out of you, leaving you less than you were before, and sometimes unhealthy in mind and body to boot. Do what's right for YOU. We all go above and beyond, but it shouldn't come at the cost of our own lives and well being. You've done all you can do, Madeaa. That's all that anyone can do. And when it's enough, it's enough. You make sure your charges are safe, but you also make sure YOU are, too. *hugs*
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Isn't it amazing the way we turn ourselves inside and out. You know I have been through a living h*ll, h*ll is for sure, no doubt about it. I hold to the belief that if h*ll is real, then heaven must be too. I think for God's sakes I have two parents, and my aunts whom have dementia, surely this must be my lot. But, I also hold to the belief that I can do something to help myself and I will. It is so painful to be in this spot, I can wallow in it, I can despair, yet there is something within me that tells me NO, you will prevail if you choose to, I choose to. I spoke to my mother and she cried cried and cried and cried to come home. I cried and felt so guilty that I abandoned her, but guess what, I reviewed it all. She is a danger to herself and me. She will place me in danger, she will fall, she will continue with her false stories, that these freaking neighbors believe and I will end up a big Loser, sick and a real LOSER. The point is this, sometimes it gets to the point where you are not helping the situation and she needs "other" help. I have done all that is humanly possible, she is now killing me, and for me she has beaten me down so much that all that is left is a mere shadow of myself. I aint going down that way, sorry, time to take care of myself. If you aren't there you don't understand, allow us that right to know what is right for ourselves. Sometimes when you don't allow yourself to self preserve you end up dead. It is a fact and the truth. Make up your own mind.
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Can you have mom go on "vacation" to one of your homes? If you can figure out how to do this and present it as a fun time for her away, maybe then you can hire a crew to come in and clean the home. After it is cleaned, get the aide to come in and be with her each day when she comes home. Have a cleaner once a week, or daily whatever she can afford. She needs to be surrounded with people, the hoard can be a response to intense aloneness.
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I didn't see that ScratchieCat said anything about her mom being a hoarder. Neither did I say that about my mom.
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I agree with both of you. People who do not have someone that is to this extreme does not understand the lengths that you need to go to. OMG, I had doctors working with me to coordinate how to get her into a safe situation. Mom was so manipulative herself, believe me that was a tough task. Dad got physical, mom would scream. Both of them even tried to throw me out of the house and let me tell ya that didn't go very well for them. You do what you have to do. If you have professionals that understand what is going on then if you are arrested for abuse (yes its possible), you have the support to back you up. BUT.... anyone who knows your situation is going to be so supportive of you it will be amazing!

Geriatric psych was the best place for my mother. They ran brain scans to see why her behavior was so irrational since an extensive interview with me and they were able to meet and handle some of her behavior. Some of it was still so ingrained in mom, but at least now she wasn't a beast to deal with like previously.

Standingalone reminded me of a story with my mother. Her "baby" brother was an a-hole. He was trying to con her out of some money and I knew he was playing her something fierce. Well mom thought he was the cats meow and she would only talk to him and call him. So I started screwing with the phone. I told the AL staff about what was going on and since knowing mom's personality and issues, they worked with me soooooo well!! I would turn the ringer off so the phone wouldn't ring. When mom figured that out, I would undo the cord from where it was hidden by leaving it "in" but not. Then my "uncle" (mom's baby brother) started new methods, so I took action there too. I changed mom's phone number without ever telling anyone. Oh I went to the mat with mom and I have to agree with StandingAlone.... all costs. Believe you me I worked for it, but I got satisfaction knowing she was okay.

Did I also mention after exhausting days with her going to the mat that I also drank a lot? :X It was the only way I could chill out while my blood was boiling mad (literally!)
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50sChild, I love your take on this as well. Sounds like something I would do, too. I would definitely give your idea a shot if the mess wasn't quite to the 'hoarder' level yet...get the parent the h*ll out of there for a few hours, and clean house. Awesome solution.
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I just got back from 8 weeks in CA where my brother and I put my 91 yr. old, legally blind mom in a geripsych hospital for evaluation. Scratchiecat, I would never have thought that this was a possibility. Mental illness was our guess...these are traits we've seen since we were kids. Because mom is so good at hiding the issues, she was to be sent home after being there 5 days. Fortunately, I had a picture of the dirty mess in which she lived, the doctor was shocked and decided to send her to a locked geripsych residential care facility while we continued to clean up and repair her home. Then, we would decide if she could return with a care worker.

Those of you who say you wouldn't give your loved one a choice have no idea what I've gone through with her. How would you get her out of the house? Give me specifics. Or, get back in the house when she refused to let you in because you threw something away on the last visit? People would say, you need to take her for an evaluation? I'd ask, how? when she will not go. We've made appts and couldn't physically get her out of the house. Her reaction was like trying to put a cat in a tub of water! Give me specifics on how to do these things. I bet we've tried it.

We attempted to get an apartment or assisted living for her for a month or so. That way we could come in, triage, clean, and repair the home without her interference. Remember, legally we can not force her to do that (or go to a doctor, or take medication, or clean her house, or....and she knows that).

We tried APS (adult protective services) who came out, saw this situation, and after 3 months closed the case. This happened three times.

How then did we get her to the hospital? It took over three weeks to put together. Find the appropriate geripsych unit, get two of her doctors to write (and have notarized) that she is not competent to take care of herself...that's harder than you think, especially if she only has one doctor, take over her finances via successor trustee listed in her Trust, make a plan to get her to the hospital. That included her internist calling her to come in for an exam, my brother coming in to take her there, the doctor (we couldn't have done it with this man!) telling her he wants some blood workup taken at a specific hospital (the one with the geripsych unit) and talking her into going from his office straight to the hospital. (It took Dr. an hour to get her to agree that these blood tests). As my brother started driving her there, she changed her mind (nothing new). When he refused to stop, she attempted to get out of the car while it was moving, started beating the inside of the car with her fists (and, yes, StandingAlone, with her cane), then started on my brother. Because of the danger of the situation, my brother took her home to use the bathroom, etc. There he incurred verbal abuse that should never happen to anyone! He left to settle down and returned an hour later. He was able to coax her into the car and drove the 20 mins. to the hospital. The hospital had been primed and was waiting for her in order to direct her to the geripsych unit. She didn't have any paperwork to do since we, in conjunction with the dr, did it ahead of time. She still thinks a mistake was made, that she should have just had some blood tests.

Mom has refused to take any medications the drs at the hospital wanted her to try. She comes across as "delightful" to most people...for a while. They don't understand why "her kids don't help her". She'll forget what we (or anyone else) has done???? Not likely! I constantly hear about things missing that she accuses someone (usually me or my brother) of stealing 10 yrs ago.

StandingAlone, I am really offended by all your "I would make sure". I'd love to know how you would make sure. When people would say to me, you just need to do it, I'd ask how and no one could give me concrete plans of action. Or, the other phrase "you need to get her to...". Tell me how.

I hadn't intended to write all this. ScratchieCat, your situation sounds a lot like mine. "She has a long history of mental illness but she is functional and very smart." Yep. I got it! Frustrating, isn't it? Especially when others have pat answers that don't work or help. Just adds condemnation.

Thanks for listening.
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scratchie, 1. Notify the local police of who to call in the event of an emergency, because pretty soon they will respond to her house and not know who to call.
2. Notify her doctor by call or in writing of your concerns and meet with the MD if you can, discuss medications and see if she is actually taking them properly.
3. Notify her county senior services that she is at risk and have them check on her. Depending on how bad things are, they may have her taken in for evaluation. 4. When you are there, quietly clean up and ignore the protests. I would tackle the cupboards one at a time, and told mom I was getting rid of bugs and was careful not to criticize her, just the bugs. I arranged the boxes and cans that remained on the front of the shelves, so the cupboard looks full.
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