I need advice on hoarding. - AgingCare.com

I need advice on hoarding.

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To start, I am currently out of state from this grandparent. The person in question has been hoarding for a very long time. This began, from what I was told, when her mother died. I have ignored it for a very long time as it may have been a level 2 or 3 in moderate control. Now, since her husband (my grandfather), her son, as well as two of her sisters passed away. Her hoarding may be at level 5. Several alarming things have brought to my attention by her and others which suggests this. Firstly, her fridge, washer and dryer and car are current broken or need repair but she won't allow anyone in the house to replace or help. This is mostly due to the fact that she doesn't want to get rid of or change anything that was purchased with her husband. She now also has her son's house which lived on the same block and it also is in the same condition as her house. To add, she also is paying for a storage he had because he to, hoarded items. She is in her 70's and sleeps in a chair in the living room to make matters worse. Year after year I am met with the typical excuses of "If I find a good place to donate the items of your grandfather's I will take them there, i'll need to throw away his underwear because that can't be donated" or "I will get around to it when I have the time/energy". My sister got into contact with me at told me she doesn't allow anyone into the house anymore and that the glimpse she had of it was that areas that where never blocked now are. My sister also want's to get into contact with the SPCA and APS to get assistance for her and her animals. One of which, a dog, just died recently. Finally, I confronted her outright yesterday because now it seems she is need me to pay for her car, her sons taxes as well as other things that she can no longer afford, her credit being maxed. I had to help with the expenses of the dog that passed. She seems very aware that the extra house and everything is sapping her fiances (extra water bill, electric, taxes, lawn care, ect.). I was very stern (not mean or yelling), and asked her what it will take to get her son's house taken care of and sold. She at least seems honest and wants to meet partially with me about doing something and even admitted the reason why she never wanted me to fly down to see her that last few years was because she is ashamed of her current situation. But on the other hand I was being met with resistance and misdirection's (attempting to change the topic). Essentially, I told her if I would like to fly down and fix the situation before I am going to be forced to sever my relationship with her. In that, it is hurtful to watch her on a sinking ship such as this. I told her to call me back when she has a decision ready. What she doesn't know is that if I am not successful in any means, my sister will call in officials. What I fear is that she may not be capable of cleaning the house herself and she may be sent to a home and her houses condemned. What that said, in the past she has threatened several times that if she was sent to a home she would "off herself" or down a bottle of pills because her mother was abused in a retirement home. The most I have been able to do up until this point was to convince her to speak with a consular, but this has not put a dent in the issue by any means. She also seems to be suffering from dementia, repeating stories, not remember what she told to people, consistently cutting you off mid sentence, and changing topics completely ect. I think this a serious form of self neglect and I have no idea what to do after the general resources are exhausted "APS, police/fire, ect." A lot of people have given up on her and I seem to be her last hope at any from of a normal life. I'm really trying to get a plan of attack together, and any advice will be greatly appreciated. This person lives in New York. Also, sorry if the details seem a bit disorganized, I'm a little bit scatterbrained with everything that is going on.

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Thank you very much for the support and replies everyone. Churchmouse, I am know a little bit about the psychological aspects of it as I have had time in college to try to understand and research it. With that, I have seen a few different shows here and there on YouTube. I spent part of my life in those types of situations (her house), so it's not my preferable thing to watch. Though I am happy for those who do successfully get over the compulsion or addiction.

I really like the idea of separating her from the house but it would seem she has had ALOT of time to counter everything you can throw at her. For instance, she will say something to the point of "I would like to see my bother before he passes, but i have animals to take care of at home". There always seems to be a catch 22 or a cyclical ideology that is near impossible to break.

cwillie, I have attempted the legal approach in the past. She has demonstrated/agreed that she would like me to be in charge if something where to happen to her being prior military and a business student. But getting her to complete the necessary forms such as a living will has been like pulling teeth. Perhaps, she is derailing it purposely as to protect her hoarding? Also, I have debated using the fridge and getting her washer tub wielded as leverage. For instance, if I can get her to agree I would sweeten the deal and say something akin to "If we get the places cleaned up I will be able to purchase you a new fridge and fix the washer so you no longer have to go out to do these tasks". I do not know if that is the appropriate thing to do with a hoarder psyche or not.

From what I remember, she doesn't seem to be hoarding trash and what not, I guess you would consider that a "dry" hoarder. But as we know, any type of hoard can not possibly be a clean one, especially after 30 years or so. I do believe it is what's keeping her sick often. She was also the financial person in her marriage, so it would appear that she is doing well on her own keeping everything up to date. Except, I do believe the perpetual finical crisis when something unexpected happens would not be happening if she didn't have the second house. I think this is the end of the road and something's going to give, so it's critical that I intervene somehow.

You're right, I had come to the hard realization that I may have been fueling her hoarding indirectly by helping her out financially. Although most time's she has paid me back, it would seem the troubles are becoming more chronic and this was my way of putting a stop to it by intervening. I would rather help her get the second house sold, and get more money back in her pocket monthly, then to add money to the fire.

Geewiz, she is in her early 70's now so you are correct, some traits of the depression may have rubbed off on her from her parents. However, there was also a house fire when she was a child that may have contributed to it. I am still searching for someone who may specialize in hoarding specifically. But I'm not certain of how to approach that once I find one. I had convinced her already to speak to someone, but like I said, it hasn't put a dent into anything. She claims he tells her to "start with small tasks everyday and report back". But that clearly isn't working. After I find one, I would have to think of a way to get her to see this specialist which will be complicated.

The good news is my sister has agreed to help clean if needed. But it may have to be me to start it at first as it seems I hold the most trust with her. The family dynamics are very messy but that's a whole different story and part of why I decided to not go back home (lol). The bad news is I haven't heard anything from her yet as to a decision to date.
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I'd say a week tops, CW, with a professional team - the trade reckons, working in pairs, two people per two rooms per day. Unless there are structural issues with either house that need to be addressed. But the actual "stuff": it's the difference between enthusiastic amateurs and hardened professionals, the speed with which the latter can get rooms stripped out and packed away and hauled out - keep, donate, sell, dump. Worth every penny.
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I think the strategy I would take is to first, get her legal documents in order, tell her that if you (or someone else, it doesn't have to be you) has POA they can take care of things like buying a frig etc so she doesn't have to worry about that. You need control of her finances so you can help stop any future hoarding.
I really don't think a vacation will give you enough time unless you are sending her on a world cruise, I would find her a place to live, perhaps a senior friendly IL is all she needs for now and will be an easier sell than AL. Tell her that once she is settled you will help her go through her things, she doesn't need to trouble herself with that now. It would help if you can find a therapist who specializes in hoarding and convince her to see them. Once she is physically separated from the hoard it will be easier to deal with it.
It will be very difficult to balance her right to go through the hoard and your need to get things done in a timely manner (my incipient hoarder can waste an hour tearing old papers into confetti, never mind that there are shredders for that). Good luck.
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The TV show 'Hoarders' always has a mental health professional with the hoarder as they begin the clean out process.In view of your Grandmother's unwillingness to even let anyone into the property, I don't have many ideas. You don't mention her age of if there are other medical issues. She was clearly raised by or was a depression era person. In general, this group saved everything because it may be helpful one day! The dementia aspect just adds to the challenge. Good luck your distance adds to the challenge. I would not contribute financially to this disaster! Would she be more comfortable beginning with the son's place that she isn't using?
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I don't blame you. It's a complete maelstrom.

I expect you watch all the t.v. programmes about this, yes? (I do. Love 'em!)

So you'll have got the message that trying to argue your grandmother into addressing this *terrible* situation is worse than a waste of breath. It upsets her uselessly, and frustrates you beyond measure.

You could:
Go to NY, collect your grandmother, and take her away on vacation.
Meanwhile, your sister and a hired team get in there and blitz the places. Watch episodes of 'Life Laundry' in particular for the emphasis on rescuing and restoring the real treasures buried under all the burdensome, dangerous mess.

You cannot do this without your grandmother's co-operation and consent. No really, you can't. But, there are diplomatic ways to get her agreement to it. You talk about 'spring cleaning' and about 'spick and span', about 'restoring', rather than 'junk' or 'hoard' or 'health hazard,' for example.

She can't face the thought of losing things that are important to her. She can't deal with the sheer scale of this. If you can find a way to get her to agree to the family's doing it for her that doesn't force her into a humiliating or frightening confession, it might just work.

The pain of this whole situation for all of you is real, and I truly, truly sympathise.
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