General Interest

When Your Life Includes a Hoarder

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How do I start.I feel ashamed.And it’s not even me.

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My mother is a hoarder.For as long as I have known her she has been either “in training” as a hoarder, or a full-blown graduate.She’s now in her late 80′s and I envision that real soon, things will get very complicated.

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Growing Up With A Hoarding Parent.

My mother continuously says that she simply doesn’t understand how things got so out-of-control.She says, “When you kids were growing up I kept a beautiful house.Everything was so well organized.I knew where everything was.”Well, talk about denial.I was the oldest and by the time I was 12, we couldn’t invite people into the house.If someone did get in, they never got beyond the kitchen – and if they had to use the bathroom, the message was, “it’s broken.”If we got invited to play at someone else’s home, we couldn’t reciprocate.That doesn’t do much for building friendships.�More importantly, though, I always kind of wondered what why did we have to live like that.

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The Hoarding Elder

Today she lives in an apartment in an independent living community.The administration in the community tends to treat her with decided disdain.She’s combative. “They have no right to tell me how to live.I paid my entrance fee.I pay my rent.This is MY home and I’ll live the way I want.”To an extent, she’s right.To an extent… What I say to her is that she lives in a society that is concerned not only about her safety and well-being, but for the safety and well-being of others.So if the plastic bags and paper all over the stove catch on fire, then it’s a huge problem for a lot of people beyond the borders of her apartment.This all fell on deaf ears until two months ago.She fell and the EMT’s came to take her to the hospital.They reported to the community administration that the apartment was “unsafe.”So, a sister and I helped her clear away the junk from the stove and make a wider pathway to the bathroom.That’ll hold them off for a while.Meanwhile, I spend a full day each week with her, doing her bills, taking her to appointments, etc.Oh, and yes, I spend a lot of time walking around the administrative offices, letting them know I’m there and on-the-job.

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Today’s Problem

Mom is getting increasingly frail and depressed – but more importantly, she’s getting forgetful.No, she hasn’t completely succumbed to total memory loss – and she would probably run circles around any judge who tried to declare her incompetent.But I worry.Just like when we were young, she won’t let anyone in the apartment – so envisioning a future with her having a full-time aide doesn’t seem likely.Where do we go from here?

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This is what I know.She’s not going to change.She has no interest in doing so.� We could go in with a bulldozer to empty out the place and I guarentee you that 2 months later the apartment will be back to its over-cluttered condition.� So again I ask, where do we go from here?

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In preparation for writing this, I reviewed the materials available from the Hartford Hospital’s Anxiety Disorders Center.If you have a hoarder, or hoarder-in-the-making in your life, you might find the materials helpful.www.CompulsiveHoarding.org.

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