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Adult Child is Hoarder in Parents' House
Old 11-23-2012, 03:52 AM   #1
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Adult Child is Hoarder in Parents' House

My 57 year old brother lives in my parents' house. My parents are in their mid-eighties. My brother helps with paying the monthly expenses but there is no formal lease.

While never medically/mentally diagnosed, my brother has hoarding tendencies. It has gotten so bad that he can no longer sleep in his bed because he has filled up all available space on the floors. He now sleeps in a recliner in a guest bedroom; and his 'belongings' have begun to encroach into that area as well.

His bedroom can no longer be cleaned because of the clutter and it has that 'dirty' smell to it. There are a couple narrow paths to navigate the room.

His belongings are trash by most people's standards but he is unable to part with the junk. He will not seek psychological help. He will not clean up his act.

My parents our stressed out and their quality of their life is sufffering. Furthermore, they may need to sell the house should their health deteriorate and/or if they decide to move into some sort of senior living environment but the hoarding is devaluing the home; nor would my brother ever clean it to the point where the home could be shown to prospective buyers.

My parent's don't know where to turn.

As a start, I suggested they present a formal letter to my brother stating he must remove the bulk of the possessions/trash by January 31, 2013. Failure to do so will result in my parents beginnining formal evictions procedures.

Has anyone had similar experience or can you offer advice on how best to proceed to get my brother (and his 'possessions') out of the house if he does not comply with my parent's clean up wishes.

Is this elder abuse? If so, is there some sort of senior advocacy route we would be better off trying.

Thanks for any advice you could supply.
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:14 AM   #2
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The state you live in should have Adult Protective Services (APS), correct ? It might be a good idea to call them first and ask for advice.
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:37 AM   #3
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He might suffer from severe depression.
But he could find help out there, if only he starts looking.

How about meeting as family for an intervention before taking formal steps like letters with due dates and eviction?

Before such meeting you might want to contact the leader of a self help group for hoarders or for relatives of depressed people to explore the best setting of an intervention.

All the best to your family.
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Old 11-23-2012, 05:00 AM   #4
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I just found this link on my favorite paper website. Some food for thought.

The 40-Something Dependent Child - NYTimes.com
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Old 11-23-2012, 06:46 AM   #5
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+1 on Adult Protective Services.

This is not going to get better by itself and when inevitably you (or whoever deals with the outcome) has to deal with it the problems will be compounded by procrastination now.
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Old 11-23-2012, 06:56 AM   #6
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+2 on Adult Protective Services. This sounds like there is some mental illness, at least depression. Confrontation does not work, but treatment may help.
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Old 11-23-2012, 07:08 AM   #7
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+3

I have two relatives with hoarder tendencies and I do think that it involves some sort of mental distress. In my experience, you can't reason with them. To them, their junk is as valuable as gold, even if it is in reality trash and broken items. They are very emotionally tied to their possessions and unable to part with anything. I think talking to APS may be the first step.
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Old 11-23-2012, 07:57 AM   #8
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From what I understand of hoarders, it is very difficult to get them to let go of their possessions. It can take months or years of treatment before they start to let go of their stuff.

It's heartbreaking for your brother and I'm sure you hope he gets help. However, as you pointed out, it is unacceptable for your elderly partents to be burdened with this.

In my opinion, it would be best if he found his own place. While he's looking for a new place to live his possessions should be moved to one of those rental storage units. This will do two things: get the junk out of your parents home and make it easier for him to move out.

I agree that adult protective services may be helpful. Before you call them in make sure your parents are clear on what they want to happen.
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Old 11-23-2012, 08:19 AM   #9
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Throw the bum out.
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Old 11-23-2012, 08:53 AM   #10
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Eh, some people will say that the bum deserves some compassion.

PS. Of course, the real question is that if the wrong compassion will hurt rather than help.
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Old 11-23-2012, 10:28 AM   #11
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Thanks for the responses, we have tried talking with him. He has the financial means to put his belongings in storage or have his own place. He gets very defensive and upset when we encourage him to get help to get to the root of the problem. He has a ferocious temper. He once freaked out when my parents threw out a worn plastic bag that to him was the perfect use for carrying something or another when any other bag would have been perfectly fine. He his meticulous in note taking to the point where he keeps track of where everything is in the bed of his truck which is commpletely filled with pringles cans, boxes, old plastic containers. He must have over 500 pens.

It takes hm a great deal of time to make any decision. It's as if he has to look at it backwards, forwards, upside down and three times around before even hazarding a decision.

He has an uncanny memory when it comes to dates and events in his life yet did not even know where I lived (which is half a mile from my parent's home) having been to my house before.

He wants a reason or explanation for the most obtuse things. He investigates/researches things to no end.

Again, thanks for your ideas. I will check out ASP and identify some local sources of help.
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Old 11-23-2012, 11:04 AM   #12
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I am not certain you want to call in the law, but have you considered that storing that much 'trash' in the house might violate fire codes? That might force the issue for your brother and parents.
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Old 11-23-2012, 11:23 AM   #13
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Again, thanks for your ideas. I will check out ASP and identify some local sources of help.
You might also want to see a therapist or psychiatrist that has experience or specializes in people like this. One session, he/she can give valuable advice and possibly point to additional resources you should consider. This is definitely not something to tackle alone.
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Old 11-23-2012, 12:03 PM   #14
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If the OP is a caregiver and/or depending on the state she lives in, reporting of abuse towards adults (especially seniors) may be mandatory. The OP does not need any proof of actual abuse (signs can be subtle) and can report anonymously.

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I am not certain you want to call in the law, but have you considered that storing that much 'trash' in the house might violate fire codes? That might force the issue for your brother and parents.
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Old 11-23-2012, 12:42 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by LauAnn View Post
Thanks for the responses, we have tried talking with him. He has the financial means to put his belongings in storage or have his own place. He gets very defensive and upset when we encourage him to get help to get to the root of the problem. He has a ferocious temper. He once freaked out when my parents threw out a worn plastic bag that to him was the perfect use for carrying something or another when any other bag would have been perfectly fine. He his meticulous in note taking to the point where he keeps track of where everything is in the bed of his truck which is commpletely filled with pringles cans, boxes, old plastic containers. He must have over 500 pens.
It takes hm a great deal of time to make any decision. It's as if he has to look at it backwards, forwards, upside down and three times around before even hazarding a decision.
He has an uncanny memory when it comes to dates and events in his life yet did not even know where I lived (which is half a mile from my parent's home) having been to my house before.
He wants a reason or explanation for the most obtuse things. He investigates/researches things to no end.
Again, thanks for your ideas. I will check out ASP and identify some local sources of help.
Have you watched any of the hoarders reality TV shows?

Your brother displays the classic symptoms and the shows will give you a better understanding of their point of view. Despite years of trained medical professionals working with hoarders on these shows, the relapse rate is nearly 100%.

The only practical solution for your parents may be for him to move out... or for them to move out. I don't know of any reason to hope that your brother will stop his hoarding tendencies, but maybe medical professionals have new treatments.
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Old 11-23-2012, 12:50 PM   #16
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From what I understand of hoarders, it is very difficult to get them to let go of their possessions. I can take months or years of treatment before they start to let go of their stuff.

It's heartbreaking for your brother and I'm sure you hope he gets help. However, as you pointed out, it is unacceptable for your elderly partents to be burdened with this.

In my opinion, it would be best if he found his own place. While he's looking for a new place to live his possessions should be moved to one of those rental storage units. This will do two things: get the junk out of your parents home and make it easier for him to move out.

I agree that adult protective services may be helpful. Before you call them in make sure your parents are clear on what they want to happen.
+1 especially in light of the relapse rate from horders who receive treatment. Your brother needs help and what may also be needed is regular support. But your parent's health is potentially in danger. Let's hope they do not feel or are not being pressured to be enablers for this kind of behavior.

Cheers!
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Old 11-23-2012, 12:59 PM   #17
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+4 on Adult Protective Services. However be aware that once they get involved you may not be able to "turn them off" if you and your family think there is another way to solve this.
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Old 11-23-2012, 01:19 PM   #18
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Relying on a government agency to do what a family does not rarely produces what I'd call a "happy" outcome. IMO family situations are best handled by family, and it sounds like the OP is beginning that process.

I see no easy solution. Treatment for the hoarder might help long enough that most of the useless excess can be tossed without major trauma.
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Old 11-23-2012, 01:28 PM   #19
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Hoarding is certainly distasteful. But nice people can be hoarders. However, using one's bad temper to intimidate other people is an abuser's tactic. Granted, your brother seems to have several screws loose, but that doesn't give him the right to "freak out" over little things. I bet he's counting on his old parents' natural disinclination to up and leave. But that's what I'd advise them to do before he "freaks out" and hurts them.

Easy for me to say, I know.

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T. He has a ferocious temper. He once freaked out when my parents threw out a worn plastic bag .
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Old 11-23-2012, 01:32 PM   #20
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Please do not encourage the OP not to report is there are signs of abuse towards vulnerable people. If the OP is a caregiver for example, she is obliged to report. Depending on where she lives, failure to report abuse - even suspected abuse - is a felony.
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Relying on a government agency to do what a family does not rarely produces what I'd call a "happy" outcome. IMO family situations are best handled by family, and it sounds like the OP is beginning that process.

I see no easy solution. Treatment for the hoarder might help long enough that most of the useless excess can be tossed without major trauma.
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