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Dealing with a hoarder

(147 Posts)
Flippertyjibbetty Mon 11-Dec-17 19:47:45

Relative has had a heart attack.

She is a crazy hoarder. I don't think she can go back to her flat while recovering. She shuffles from room to room- about a foot's clearance in living room, kitchen, has limited use of the bathroom. Haven't seen bedroom but she doesn't have heating because it broke at some point and with the hoarding she can't have someone in to repair it. We're talking years without central heating btw.

I'm about to have a baby. No one else can sort out this relative in the family.

Need advice on how to help them. I don't think a private company who will come and clear stuff will help because she won't allow stuff to be thrown out.

I am about to go on mat leave. Which frees me up to sort through it but then I don't think it would be safe to take the baby.

In the interim she's going to have to live with us or we'll have to sort somewhere for her to live.

I want to make it as stress free for her as well, I can't stand her but don't imagine that it will be easy after a heart attack. Which is my concern about throwing money at the issue and hiring someone in.

OP’s posts: |
Flippertyjibbetty Mon 11-Dec-17 19:49:06

Oops repeated myself a little. Hope that was clear! Appreciate any experiences or advice or working with relatives through hoarding... imagine it happens a lot that when someone gets ill (has a fall etc) is when people find they actually have to deal with it?

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hiyasminitsme Mon 11-Dec-17 19:50:47

My suggestion? Step back and let social services handle it. Make it clear to the hospital that home isn't safe and you are not able to sort it out. Use the word vulnerable adult, a lot. If you say that you'll help, social services will breathe a sigh of relief and disappear.

dingdongdigeridoo Mon 11-Dec-17 19:53:22

Sorry to hear about your relative. Is she involved with social services at all? If she's in danger, they might need to come out and do an assessment and may be able to help. There is also a charity: who help families of hoarders.

Unfortunately, having had a relative who was a hoarder, there isn't a lot that can be done. Even if they do want to change, it's a long road to get them to overcome their compulsion. It's not something you should have to deal with alone, especially while pregnant. If you send someone in to clear out their crap, the hoarder will often freak out and re-fill the place within weeks. To them, it really isn't junk.

This is also going to sound horrible, but think carefully about letting them come and live with you. If they can't live alone, then some sort of supported care would be much better. They're likely to hoard wherever they go, and that includes your home.

Tinselistacky Mon 11-Dec-17 19:54:29

Contact your local fire station.My exfil is a volunteer and they happily go to older people's homes to check /hand out fire alarms and explain the dangers of hoarding. Its a massive fire risk, and if there was a fire it would reduce the chances of officers safely entering the address to rescue the tenants.

SlackerMum1 Mon 11-Dec-17 19:54:43

Worth googling for a local service that can help. There are people who specialise in helping hoarders and are experienced in dealing with the emotional as well as practical side of things.

PersianCatLady Mon 11-Dec-17 19:57:04

Maybe the council could enforce clearance as it must be a fire hazard

CuriousaboutSamphire Mon 11-Dec-17 19:58:22

Definitely step back and let social services handle it.

Ring SS and report her as a vulnerable adult with no suitable home to return to after hospitalisation. Tell the hospital exactly the same.

Then stiffen your backbone, bite your tongue and harden your heart - they will all ask if you can accommodate her. The answer is no, not even for one night - small house, late in pregnancy, too many stairs, no lift, you JUST DON'T WANT TO is a good enough reason, really, it is!

You can have nothing in your life's experience that is anything like trying to 'help' a hoarder. The best outcome for those who try is that they seriously question their own sanity, their own logic, loose all sense of reality and often end up agreeing with the hoarder that a certain piece of plastic shite should be saved for the nation!

Sadly I had no one to tell me that before trying to help SFIL! It was definitely 'an experience' smile

annandale Mon 11-Dec-17 19:58:43

They're on hospital. Make sure you tell the nursing team and doctors that you think this person is a vulnerable adult who needs an occupational therapy home visit prior to discharge.

I really don't think you should let a hoarder come to live with you and a new baby!

BornInSydneyy Mon 11-Dec-17 19:59:43

user1498854363 Mon 11-Dec-17 20:04:02

It depends what she wants? If she wants u to help and sort her Home out (or sort one or two rooms), then agree in advance what u will do, and how it will be decided what to keep or dispose of. People are right, it is not junk, it is important stuff to her, that’s why she is keeping it. If she doesn’t want yr help, fire brigade is good, supported housing is good (thou she will still hoard). I agree DO NOt move her in, she will hoard and social services and housing will see she is ok and leave it all to you. Stand by her and support without doing it all, her life, her choices. Meet her away from Home if need be. Hoarding doesn’t go quickly if at all.
Good luck

Housing can engage will she is in hospital, if u are in uk, hospital has a duty social worker.
You can’t clear her house without permission and agreement and she may change her mind at any time.

Splinterz Mon 11-Dec-17 20:05:50

This is a safeguarding issue and comes under self neglect. Raise it via her hospital safeguarding team.

YellowFlower201 Mon 11-Dec-17 20:06:16

Call adult social services and also inform the hospital.
Personally I think you should step away from this situation. You are about to have a baby and this relative will require a lot of care and attention which you may not be able to give. I know adult social care is not ideal but your baby has to come first.
A hoarder isn't going to stop hoarding just cos they now live with you. Please don't go to the house yourself and/or with baby. I've been to many houses like this for my job. The last one we attended the council did a risk assessment and we had to wear a full hazard suit. The boiler may not be working due to a leak?
I hope your relative feels better soon! A really tough situation.

CuriousaboutSamphire Mon 11-Dec-17 20:06:57

On NO ACCOUNT contact any service that offers to 'clean up' a hoarder's home. Just don't.

You will NEVER hear the end of it, never be forgiven and are most likely to make things far, far worse for the hoarder's mental health. And that remains true even if (especially if) the house is a complete death trap / fire hazard!

The ONLY people who can contact those services are the hoarder, usually with psychiatric input, or their relatives after they die! NEVER EVER do it for them!

Flippertyjibbetty Mon 11-Dec-17 20:07:41

Thanks. Is occupational health home a thing before returning home?

Bit more info sorry to drip feed. It's my MIL. Who I do not get on with- but we're lucky enough to have access to a holiday cottage that she could go and stay at without actually living w us. No chance of having her around when I've just had the baby, that would be a disaster. May not survive xmas together as it is....

I worry about involving the social services? Not sure how my husband will the moment he's too shaken after the heart attack to think about next steps but my immediate thought was that she def can't go back to a cold flat that probably has mice.

I tried to help her clear a couple of years ago but didn't have a car at the time and it was incredibly slow- the only way I could get her to part with rubbish was to say that I could make use of it or would donate it to someone. Basically meant that had to cart stuff on public transport to charity shop and I hurt my back and then we fell out before had made any serious dent in it (maybe managed to clear 15-20 bags over a few visits but that is a drop in the ocean).

Talking to the nursing staff sounds a good option, I suppose they will know what options are available in the specific area- imagine this is as much a postcode lottery as everything else seems to be involving services?

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jedenfalls Mon 11-Dec-17 20:09:29

You don't deal with a hoarder.

This is one to step very firmly back and let social services deal with. If you give an inch they will take a mile.

PersianCatLady Mon 11-Dec-17 20:10:18

Don't allow her to live in the cottage as you will then have two properties to deal with.

SS need to deal with th8s.

AdoraBell Mon 11-Dec-17 20:10:21

As others have said, step back and emphasise that the relative is a vulnerable adult without an appropriate home to return to.

And being maternity leave doesn’t free you up. It gives you time to prepare for the birth etc. So don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise.

I’m sorry this has happened and hope your relative recovers well.

user1497357411 Mon 11-Dec-17 20:10:30

You cannot deal with a newborn baby and someone with both physical and mental health problems at the same time. You'll get a break down yourself. Protect yourself, Say "No". She cannot live with you.

Flippertyjibbetty Mon 11-Dec-17 20:12:02

Curious- sounds like you're talking from direct experience? Mind sharing what happened?

Thanks to everyone who has posted btw - slice of cake for you all cake

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YellowFlower201 Mon 11-Dec-17 20:12:20

Why are you concerned about involving adult social services? This is exactly the situations they deal with.
Don't move her into your holiday home. You'll most likely find she hoards there too so she may as well stay at home and you'll have two properties to clear.
Get your husband to come up with a plan with SS. It may reassure him!

CuriousaboutSamphire Mon 11-Dec-17 20:13:49

You don't need to know who Occy Health are, you won't be contacting them! No... you won't!

If you want your holiday cottage to be filled with crap, important crap, crap that comes before her kids and grandkids, then yes, give her the keys! I am not kidding, she will fill it in double quick time, it will feel empty, she will need to fill it with important things.

Actually she will refuse, as all her important things are in her own home, she knows where they are and she likes her own space.

Don't worry about getting SS involved. Your DH will not be able to cope, SS and the hospital after care team will reinforce this - if they think you cannot accommodate her!

Your DH will have to face facts soon. It is hard to do, hard to talk about and harder to stick to... especially as someone close will inevitably reprimand you for being a heartless bitch!

Good luck!

AdoraBell Mon 11-Dec-17 20:14:20

Ah, that makes it more tricky. If your DH insists on having her at your home how will that work out? Will you be able to insist he deals with her and prevents any hoarding going on in your house?

CuriousaboutSamphire Mon 11-Dec-17 20:18:15

SFIL was left alone after MILS death. He was already quite a hoarder but it got out of hand. I had free time, I was at Uni, and was 'nominated' to 'help' him. I tried. He got aggressive. I tried to get his bio family involved, he got more aggressive. Then he died and his bio family swooped in and cleared the lot!

There is no hell quite like the inner workings of a hoarder's brain. It is very hard to explain, the aggression was, at least, a normal response. The emotional blackmail, the highly emotive pleading, the utter lock of logic and paramount importance of flakes of plastic, soaked through pieces of paper, stinking, aged clothing... there simply aren't adequate words!

happypoobum Mon 11-Dec-17 20:26:41

Hoarding is a MH issue.

I doubt you are qualified/able to deal with this, particularly as your new baby should be your priority.

You don't even like MIL, no way would I want her living in my holiday cottage. It will be like her flat within a few weeks/months and then what?

Just let SS deal with it. Don't mention having her stay with you/at cottage. If DH wants to live with her then I guess you cannot stop him, but you can certainly avoid it yourself.

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