Mother-in-law lives out of state, is a hoarder, and living in untenable conditions. What are our options? We have DPOA. - AgingCare.com

Mother-in-law lives out of state, is a hoarder, and living in untenable conditions. What are our options? We have DPOA.

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My husband is an only child and his mom lives 1,200 miles away in a different state. They love each other but you wouldn't know it by the way they push each others buttons! We visit her several times a year and although he attempts to help her fix things and tidy up a bit, she'll have nothing of that. She owns two houses (she bought the second one because the first one got too full of junk). That first house is now rented (for a pittance) to a friend of hers who has cleaned it up and made nice again. My husband just returned from a visit w/his mom and has discovered that most of the plumbing in her house isn't working. The toilet and the kitchen sink are the only things that work. She goes across town to her other house to take a shower! (That means she's driving.) So, the house must entirely replumbed. The two estimates my hubby got were both close to $10,000. He told Mom we'd pay for it but that she would need to let us clean the place up first. Of course, she said she'd get some friends to help her clean--which she won't. She always has a "plan," to remedy anything we voice concern about--and the "plan" always serves as her way to change the subject and make us think she has things under control. (She doesn't.) Then, of course, everything stays exactly the same--or gets worse.

I don't begrudge my husband the money to help his mom, but I did raise the point that she's got another perfectly good house that she could (1) move into, or (2) sell and pay for the plumbing herself. That money could also enable her to afford an assisted living apt. My husband is past retirement age (still working) and we have two kids in college. We live comfortably but dipping into our savings for that amount will take a big bite out of our "if all hell breaks loose/if we lose our jobs" account. Her Will gives us DPOA--and we are seeing an attorney about that next week--but even so, I'm not sure that will help us here. She is still fairly healthy and although not as mentally quick as she used to be, she can still think on her feet--and that's part of the problem. She makes stuff up (this is nothing new--she's done this for the 30 years I've known her) and is totally argumentative about making any changes in her living situation. Example: she has had two broken down cars in her driveway for 3 years. Every time my husband asked her about them she said "So and So is going to give me $400 for that car!" So, last week, he asked her about them again; she gave the same reply. So, he called a wrecking yard and they told my husband they'd give her $500 for both cars AND haul them away. He told his mom and she said "I want $600." Brother! Anyway, they came, handed her the $500 cash and carted them away. She was pissed. He handed her $100 more just to stop her grousing! She has two rusted old bikes in the backyard (along with 3 TVs and a washing machine). My hubby asked her if he could take the bikes to the dump. She said, "No, I rode that bike two weeks ago." It's not that she's confused--she's just lying to keep us from getting rid of her stuff. I realize hoarding is a mental illness and it has been so much easier to just not deal with all of this--but now I know we have to. We are at our wit's end. There has got to be a way to help her go through her things and pick out the items that are special to her and dispose of the crap--but I'm pretty sure she'd place a pile of old newspapers and junk mail in the "cherished items" category, so we'd get nowhere.

Does anyone know if there are organizations in CA (other than the State DSHS, etc.) where family members can get a third-party to come in and evaluate Mom and her living situation? We DON'T want her money or her houses, but we would like to sell one of her houses to pay for assisted living or to get her place cleaned up/repaired/painted and to hire someone to come in once a week and keep the junk to a minimum and to clean out the refrigerator. A big concern I have is that if she gets wind of us setting any of this in motion she may just revoke the DPOA. Then where would we be?

As you can probably tell, there's not much love lost between me and my mother in law, but for most of my married life I've been the "rational" one in any discussion between them that may get contentious. She can be really nasty to my husband--and it breaks my heart. I know she's frustrated and probably overwhelmed. She's living on a shoestring, but again, she's got two stinking houses, plus her late husband's pension and SS! Hubby knows that logic isn't really the approach to take with her, but he's so linear in his thinking he just can't figure out how to talk to her any other way. We just don't have the tools--emotional or otherwise--to do this by ourselves.

That's it in a big fat nutshell. Again, I realize her mental capacity is probably going to keep us from being able to fall back on the DPOA. She just can't keep living in this situation, however. Any advic

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Thanks for your thoughts. I think you are totally right about seeing some of the options we are looking at as simply enabling her to continue to live exactly how we DON'T want her to--and in ways that are simply not safe. I'm worried about calling any department in the State of CA because I think someone there would then become the decision maker in this, and both she and us would have our hands tied. I'm not anti-government, it's just that I've heard horror stories about govt bureaucracies. That's not to say we won't go that route, I just want to find out if there might be any private organizations that might be able to provide a third-party opinion and be able to help us push her in the right direction. Thanks again.
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You are probably right that her mental capacity is going to keep you from being able to enforce your decisions. People in their right minds have the legal right to make poor decisions.

But that doesn't mean you have to enable the poor decisions. I think under the circumstances giving her $10,000 out of your savings is ill-advised. She really does have resources to support herself in her old age (if applied properly) and you need to make sure you can say the same for yourselves when your time comes. If she is going to insist on making poor decisions, like ignoring the great advice to either sell one house and fix the other up and bring in help, or sell both and go into AL then at the very least you should NOT pay to enable her to do that.

I hope others will be able to advise you specifically in CA, but I wonder if Adult Protection Services could do an evaluation of her living conditions if you requested it?

It is very kind of you to be concerned for her welfare. And it is generous of your husband to be willing to hand over large sums of money. But I think that would be counterproductive and not really contribute to her welfare.

Good luck to the three of you! And please keep us updated about how this plays out. We learn from each other.
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