I am not my mother's caregiver but have found that hoarding is especially a problem in older adults. I thought maybe some caregivers had experience with dealing with older people who refuse to throw away anything.
Mom moved to her hometown about 6 years ago against the advice and pleas of my siblings and I. We all live 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours away from her and we knew we would not be able to see or help her as much as we had been. Since she moved, she has steadily begun to accumulate a ton of crap in her 3 bedroom home and has a singlewide and backyard that are full of stuff. Everything is something that so and so can use or it's for the yard sale that she never gets around to having or it's something that she will use one of these days. She was in a car accident recently and insisted that she needed everything out of her overstuffed trunk. (I used to pray that she never had a flat tire because she could never have gotten to her spare tire.) Now all that stuff is in boxes in one of the spare rooms and you can barely get in there. My mother is 72. She is very overweight and suffers from arthritis which makes housecleaning difficult. I am afraid that she will trip over one of the many boxes in her home or one of the dozen rugs that she insists on placing all over the carpet. (She walks with a cane.) She also shops for groceries like she has a house full of kids and there is always rotten veggies in the fridge or grocery bags of rotten fruit in her car or on the floor that she forgot to put away. She gets angry & offended if you try to remove anything or suggest that she get rid of some things. My siblings have given up on her. I'm at my wit's end. Is there anything I can do, other than hope for the best and grin and bear it? Other than the hoarding, she is sharp as a tack and 100% competent.
I am by no means an expert on the subject, and you are most probably more experienced and therefore wiser than me. Nevertheless, I have given the subject of hoarding much thought as it is a problem we also have in our family. Of course, ultimately your conclusion may be the healthiest - that in the end there may be absolutely nothing we can do to get rid of the crap itself... however...
The feeling I get is that the act itself is fueled by a deep rooted fear - that the world is slipping through our fingers. If we can only grip it firmly enough, it will not disappear in front of our eyes. The fear is very personal, it is about leaving something behind, about being remembered, about remembering, and ultimately boils down to the fear of dying.
Of the many actions that I have attempted (including secretly throwing stuff out at night - usually ends with the stuff inevitably finding its way out of the garbage), the most effective seems to be just listening to the person, and simply trying to understand them.
Have you ever tried to ask your mother about it, with genuine curiosity? Something as simple as "why do you think you hold on to all that junk?". But not in an accusitory way where she may suspect that you are just hatching a plan to toss one of the boxes...
In the most delicate, and loving way possible. Simply to understand, and not to change her.
I find that just listening to people allows them to reach a point where they slowly start to open up to you. It is our fears that drive our illusions, and sometimes our fears are so deep, that we may not even be aware of them. It is only when we are 100% comfortable that we can even approach the thought of the skeletons in our closet (pun intended).
Whatever you do, don't try to toss anything against her will. She will only cling on with more strength!!!
More or less (crap), the only reality we ever have is the present, so just enjoy your time with her, whatever the environment looks like.
I share your concern, and wish you and your mom all the best.
My mom is very sensitive about this subject and has responded defensively and angrily to anyone who brings up her hoarding, no matter how gently they put it. After much thought and reading your post, I have decided to spell out everything to her in a letter/ card. That way it can't lead to an argument. Hopefully, this letter will lead to a nice, calm discussion about her safety and well being.
Might I also suggest: Kindly explain to her that there are so many needy people, especially at this time with the economy.She could doante things and still have enough for herself. Homeless people need warm clothing and blankets. Animal shelters can always use extra towels and rugs for bedding.Soup kitchens and food banks can use food, senior centers use craft supplies.... You might suggest helping her to do a "yard sale" as soon as weather permits. Have your siblings help and make a fun day with Mom out of it. My best friends Mother lives in a 4 bedroom 2 story "COCCOON". She's grossly overweight and wants to save everything....and still buys becasue its on"clearance" whether she needs it or not....she is in debt beyond belief from using her credit cards...I am just the opposite. I had to help my own Mother after my Grandmother passed away. Again clear out another home when my Husband lost his Mother...I started looking for homes for things others need or can use. You can't take it with you. I've never seen a hearse pull a u-haul. Danielv had some wonderful advice! I wish you all the luck in the world!
Thanks for the advice, Fairy Godmother, but I've been there and done that. lol She's more than willing to part with items like towels and blankets. But she promptly goes to a second hand store, yard sale or auction to buy more.
I don't understand it. She stays very busy. She goes to rest homes to sing and play the piano for patients several times a week. She's constantly visiting sick and hospitalized friends. She has a care package ministry for the needy; she buys laundry detergent, paper towels, soap, bathroom tissue, Kleenex... and gives them to needy people. She's on the go all the time. I can hardly ever catch her at home.
I think she needs psychiatric help but she won't agree to it. It's a very frustrating situation.
Thanks for letting me vent. Maybe now I can work on that letter without tearing my hair out!
Just one quick point that i found while researching this subject. I read somewhere that you shouldn't call the stuff 'junk' or other derogatory terms. When you are trying to broach the subject, you are supposed to use the terms that they use to describe their junk.
I don't have any great advice on how to actually change or help a hoarder, that's what I am here looking for.
Thanks for the advice, NoneChuch. I don't refer to her things as junk to her face. I'm not that stupid!
Unfortunately, things have further deteriorated. She asked me to clean her house not long after my last post. (I had not yet written that letter.) We got into an argument because she had three huge, old vacuum cleaners that didn't work. I wanted to throw them away and buy her a new one but she kept insisting that they could be fixed. (I know I should have bitten my tongue but I was hot, sweaty, tired, my back was killing me, I had spent almost two hours on cleaning her bedroom, and I still needed to clean two bathrooms, the kitchen and the living room.) I asked her what she would do with three vacuums and she gave me her standard reply: SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE could use a good vacuum cleaner. I thought, I wish to God SOMEONE would come and get their s**t because it's cluttering up your house! Long story short, she will not allow me to come back and clean her house. Even after we had a nice calm discussion about my fears of her falling, she will not let me clean her home. She recently bought a deep freezer, so she can buy more food that goes to waste, and you can barely get into or out of her tiny kitchen. She's also using a bookcase for shelving the hundreds of canned foods she buys.
NoneChuck, if you figure out anything please let me know. Now that I'm banned from her house there is no telling what kind of state it is in. And believe, it or not, we get along fine. She comes up here for visits all the time. She even spent the night last night. I'm hoping, in time she will change her mind and let me help her out.
Great topic.. My mother is a 71 year old horder with a ton of heart problems. Because of her health problems she can no longer live alone. Well.. I didn't fit in her house because.. well you couldn't see the floor. So I moved her in with me.
I am a expat living in Mexico so when I moved my mom here it was an international move. Her stuff literally got held at the border for excessive amounts of fabric. (she quilts and has more than most stores). Luckly down here we don't have fancy fabric stores and mail order doesn't work for fabric coming here (huge NAFTA restrictions on fabric). So she doesn't have as many options.
I had a huge empty basement and luckly her house was smaller than my basement. Since it is my house I am forcing organization. I had to hire a caregiver because she can't be left alone and I do overhear her telling the girl how she had stuff that I just threw away when I packed up her house. When ever I hear that I remind her that nothing else fit on the 28 foot truck or in the car.
I am by nature a "neat freek".. but I guess growing up stepping on pins and needles all over the floor kinda lead to that.
Hording is a huge problem. They don't realize they are doing it or see it as a problem. You can't fix someone that doesn't think they have a problem. The only thing that happens then is they get offended.
Luckly due to my circumstances of living in another country and moving her in with me, she doesn't have a choice. She also doesn't speak spanish and can't drive. So I have effectively limited her access and ability to "collect" more. Many of my family members laughed and wished me luck because they all know that I am a polar opposite of my mom. But they all agreed that I am the only one that can control it. In my house everything has its place. Even the thousands of pieces of fabric. I did have special shelving and cabinets made to handle all her stuff. I really think she feels better not having the option. She is learning to deal with what is available.
And yes.. we have 2 refrigerators full of way too much food. My mom was alone and stock piled as if the 3rd WW was happening. To get around that I invite people for dinner regularly. It turns into a social reason to have exorbinant amounts of food on hand.
Restricting based on language barrier is the best!! I wish you guys luck!!
My mum is 83 and has always been a hoarder and i live with her and help her out, but she finally let me throw out old newspapers and magazines (more so as she cant read them so easily now) but crockery, mugs etc - no chance the cupboards are full of millions of mugs never used, i constantly ask her about doing a car boot sale or taking stuff to charity shop or putting on freecycle, she lets me put the odd thing on there but hardly much. I wish i could show more patience but i end up so frustrated and end up crying, probably does not help but she did say last time when i cried & said 'its just not fair on me' etc etc she replied 'ok i will have to do that then, ie throw them out or give them away then'
i wish others luck, we need it!
My mom wont let anyone in. This weekend she called to say she needed to go to the hospital (heart palpatations) when I got there I opened the door and looked around in disbelieve.There was a narrow pathway that would lead through the house to the kitchen. Every other inch of space was covered with books, papers magazines newspapers,stuffed animals,papers craft stuff,clothing,articles she cut and kept attached to paper,junkmail,catalogs. She will only be in the hospital for a few days.I went there and just cleaned off the couch without throwing anything out.She will totally be angry when I bring her home.She is drowning in the clutter and wont let us help.I believe it is killing her.She is always out of the house at meetings and bookclubs because she doesnt want to be home. She doesnt think she is a horder.She needs help. I did not grow up like this.She was clean and organized beautiful home.My parents got divorced late in life- after we all left and got married.When my dad left is when it started.Slowly at first and now 20yrs later it is out of control.I am dreading her release from the hospital and the talk that always leads to her hating me and not calling anymore. I dont know what to do. If the people in the hospital or her circle of friends ever knew she would be humiliated. No One is allowed over there not grandchildren or children. I am crying and must stop now.
I definately feel for you. It has been 4 1/2 months since I moved my mom in with me. I explained to her that I need to live in a clean house. I have a live-in caregiver as well. With my mom's need to horde.. we had a few fights. I literally yelled at her and told her that she doesn't have a choice. She can live with me or go to a nursing home. In a nursing home she can not take any of her things. So either keep it clean or go.
The other day she made a comment that she is getting used to having a clean house. I know it is hard.. but there is a time period where your parents turn into your children. It is extreamly frustrating for everyone involved. But now that your mom is having problems that require hospitalization.. it is time to step it up. I know it seems mean, but just as your mom told you as a child.. it is for her own good..
I had my mom watch the TLC shows like clean sweep, every day. I would sit with her and tell her.. ok look at these people crying over their things.. this is a psychological problem. While I unpack and put your things away and sort out the trash.. you can't sit and watch me. It has to be like the show. Trust me.. there was a lot of yelling and how she felt violated.
My mom collected fabric for quilting.. there were over 150 boxes of fat-quarters. Now that I set everything up and got storage for everything.. She likes having people come over so she can show off her collection.
Oprah had a show about people who horde, the emotional factor, and children who grow up with horders. You might want to check the oprah website and see. It was very insightful.
My mother is 75 and has gotten worse over the years. She used to keep a perfect home. She kept a lot of pointless stuff, but in no way would she have been considered a horder. About 8 years ago she started getting out of control. She is very with-it mentally otherwise, but sometimes her shopping and collecting reminds me of an alzheimer patient I took care of at one time. She buys and buys even though it is something she already has many of and will not let go of any of it. I think the house she shares with my 93 year old step-father is down to less than 100 sq ft of useful walking space. Oh, and there are two new puppies to go with the two she already had. "They're small" she says, "They won't get much bigger." I am here because I just need to vent to people who understand! Thanks for listening.