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I spent this afternoon and evening with my mother in law at the hospital. She is eighty, and stubborn, and until a few weeks ago was twice as active as I am.

She is in the hospital now with a UTI and worrying cardiac enzymes. So I went over to her house to fetch her some clean underwear and her denture supplies.

The house....well. She's a hoarder. There are barely paths in places. There are roaches. I smell mice. Something has got to be done, and she'll keep saying she'll do it, but she may be to the point where it isn't a matter of will but of ability.

I know that we, her family, will clean it out if she'll let us. But I fear the only way she'll let us is if it gets reported to someone in authority.

So my question is who do I "drop a dime" to anonymously report this? Basically I want them to say, "You can't go home until the house is passable". Because short of someone in authority saying that? it won't happen. And we could easily have come in and found her dead on that couch. If we'd waited a day we well might have.  

And I admit, I'm selfish. It will be a hell of a lot easier to go over and make sure she's taken care of if I can walk through her house.

Advice?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (29+ / 0-)

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 08:26:34 PM PDT

  •  Have a friend of yours come to her in hospital (6+ / 0-)

    and tell her it needs to be done?

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 08:31:18 PM PDT

  •  How can she stop you from clearing paths? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yella dawg, Alexandra Lynch

    Just by being mean about it ?  Or can she actually stop you ?

    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

    by yet another liberal on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 08:34:27 PM PDT

  •  Does your state have Adult Protective (11+ / 0-)

    Services? those would be the folks who can advise how to keep her hospitalized (or in a rehab hospital) if need be until it can get fixed.

    LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 08:34:55 PM PDT

  •  Is there a caseworker at the hospital (15+ / 0-)

    or a discharge planner? Maybe you could have a word with them & they could sound all official to her or point you in a better direction?

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 08:35:29 PM PDT

  •  (((((((((((((((((((((Alexandra)))))))))))))))))))) (13+ / 0-)

    Oh Hon ! That's a tough situation for sure.

    I'm wondering how possible it might be to give her some choices/control over which items, that are still in good condition and within defined limits she can keep and where the stuff to be jettisoned will go. Giving her some limited control may help with her feelings of helplessness and frustration.

                          Just thinking outloud,
                              Love and Hugs,
                                    Heather

    Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.

    by Chacounne on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 08:41:09 PM PDT

    •  Excellent point. Also,if the 80yo's goal (9+ / 0-)

      is to stay home and stay independent,getting her to buy-in to a clean-up for safety may be a bit easier than otherwise.

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 08:47:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good points. I worked with a lot (9+ / 0-)

        of elderly in similar situations in my home care years. Many are not hoarders in the usual sense. It is not uncommon for them to lose control of their space due to steady decline and chronic depression exacerbated by acute illnesses.

        There are services here (Denver) that declutter and clean these homes. The owners are involved and the work can be done in short time windows so it is not tiring. The case manager at the hospital should be aware of what is available in your area.

        Are you clear on what she has in the house? Getting a good idea of what is really there helps. For instance, old newspapers and magazines can make up a significant percent. They are a fire hazard.
        Old clothes can add up and are another fire hazard.
        Has she kept too much of your father in laws things that she has no need for?

        UTIs are associated with poor hydration. If the kitchen is too messy to cook or fix meals, it is hazardous to her health for both organisms (especially mold) and malnutrition. If so and it is cleaned up, work with her on simple food prep, clean up, and storage. She may need to rethink where she puts the items used most frequently so they are easy for her to take out and put away. Meals on wheels can be fine, or really awful. Depends on location and her food preferences.

        The other consideration that can be discussed over time if the situation is not urgent, is some kind of community residence. It can be an independent apartment. If there is dining available for her main meal, it cuts the amount of food and dishes she needs in the apartment. Most importantly, the social interaction is a big help.

         Many elderly have a horrible perception of apartment living. I always found most of them a lot like college dorms. An age spectrum not even as narrow as college, with a lot of common interests. They chat waiting for the mail, in the lobbies, share newspapers, rides to the store, check on each other when sick or not seen as usual.

        Countering the resistance is tough. Been there with my 87 year old mother, who is doing fairly well in spite of  not being able to drive.

        Hang in there.

        "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

        by Ginny in CO on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 09:41:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, Alexandra needs a big hug! (6+ / 0-)

      If I'm reading in between the lines what is going on, I think that Alexandra's mother in law needs someone besides the family to get her moving in the right direction.
      I've watched some of those hoarder shows and have been in hoarder homes with animal rescue operations.
      MIL undoubably needs a therapist in there with her working through the sorting. If the family just cleans it up while she's away the place can be a mess in no time because the hoarder hasn't got the skills to stop doing it.
      Some of the hoarder show results are amazing and believe me it's like pulling teeth with even getting some of the folks to "see" was a mess it is.

      "Children who are victims of failed personal responsibility are not my problem, nor are they the problem for our government." Tim Pawlenty April 2001

      by cosette on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 08:49:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Her son and daughter have told her for years (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cosette

        to deal with it.

        She hates me. And she owns our house and is paying several utility bills for us and right now we NEED that, because we have no income of our own. I do not need to piss her off like that. I'd very likely be homeless myself.

        But something has to be done.

        When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

        by Alexandra Lynch on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 06:10:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, for some who hold on to things this way (2+ / 0-)

      it can feel like getting rid of them feeks very much like killing some aspects, maybe all one has, of the person they came from or are associated with.

      The shock of finding things really different in her house could be heartbreaking.

      Would it be possible to find a perceptive housecleaning person or two who could work her, clearing a quarter of a room a week? So that she could still be the boss and one making the decisions?

      •  She will run off anyone who isn't (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Creosote

        family.

        When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

        by Alexandra Lynch on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 06:08:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  (((Alexandra))) (4+ / 0-)

    That's a tough one. Maybe you could call a Senior service organization and ask for their advice? You've got some here but they may also have advice on who, specifically, to contact. And I'm pretty sure they have counselors to help you and the rest of your family deal with this.

    Blessed Be.

    You can fight without ever winning, but never ever win without a fight...

    by Purple Priestess on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 08:59:21 PM PDT

  •  I would talk to her first (3+ / 0-)

    Help her clean up once she's back home.  Don't be judgmental or make her feel guilty. She probably feels bad already.
    Authorities would be my last resort.

    She's 80! House work is hard on the old bones.

    El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. The people united will never be defeated

    by mint julep on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 09:01:54 PM PDT

  •  My 2 cents (7+ / 0-)

    clean up while she is in the hospital.  She might be mad but I would think calling adult protective services would make her madder, especially if she loses her home as a result.  Also, are you prepared for her to live with you or does she have resources to live elsewhere while home is being cleaned/dehoarded?  Perhaps you could box it all up, put it in storage, and bring it out one box at a time for her to deal with?  Good Luck.

    •  I agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yella dawg, Alexandra Lynch

      If she never cleaned the place up when she was well, she sure as hell won't do it now. Watch a few episodes of Hoarders and you'll be ready to go in there with cleaning crew and clean it uo before she comes home. Call the city for a dumpster first.

      •  I absolutely am. (0+ / 0-)

        But if I touch it without the force of "Mom, I'm sorry, but they said that if we left that all there that you couldn't live in the house", I will have her do something like decide that she wants to sell the house we live in.

        When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

        by Alexandra Lynch on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 06:13:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  asdf (6+ / 0-)

    We dealt with a borderline hoarder in the family. After she passed away, I was the logical choice to clear out the house. Ooh, lordy. Lesson learned: if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, whoever deals with all my leftover stuff will find my dainties drawer in impeccable order.

    You have my sympathy.

    Old people, even strong willed (bitchy) old people, can have serious emotional attachments to their stuff for a lot of reasons, and have a right to be respected- within the limits of health and safety. I would clear out the health hazards before she can stop you, and work on the immediate safety issues as best as you can, then try to get her cooperation on the piles of general stuff.

    Weathering Michigan's recessions since the '70s.

    by jennifree2bme on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 09:44:22 PM PDT

  •  Call your Area Agency on Aging. (3+ / 0-)

    Google to find your contact numbers. These exist in every state; they know TONS about these sorts of things. Friend headed up the State of Virginia one. Amazed at what all/who all they know.

    The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.- Marcel Proust

    by CoyoteMarti on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 10:20:30 PM PDT

  •  Here's some more back story: (3+ / 0-)

    She was born in the thirties to an Appalachian mining family, third child/eldest girl of nine. Desperate poverty.

    She came up to Indiana, married, and had a daughter and a son, and divorced her husband and never remarried.

    She is a paranoid, hateful, nasty personality. She's got many good qualities, but the nastiness and paranoia in general tend to swamp them. I took away her baby boy, and she has never forgiven me for that. (He was a tender thirty years old when I got him.) And since I slept with him before we got married, I have been, "that slut you married" for the last seventeen years.  She has even told him that she will buy him all sorts of things if he will divorce me and go live with her.

    I don't like her, but I don't want to have her fall over a pile while weak, and I don't want to have to do this to get her body out. And I don't want to do this while I am holding my husband together after she dies.  

    She keeps things because they could still be good for something. Roams alleys and picks things out of trash cans. It's not always bad; I've got lovely antique cast iron that just needed to be sanded and reseasoned to be good from her. But she can't get into a bedroom to sleep because they are all full of clothes and furniture, and the downstairs is barely functional due to all the furniture and clothes and stuff.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 05:53:35 AM PDT

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