Help me Help Them
May 24, 2010 9:10 PM   Subscribe

Complicated question involving hoarding, ad/hd, and a disabled relative.

My sister has a fairly advanced case of MS and very limited mobility. Her husband is a very loving and hardworking man but he has serious problems with adult ad/hd and hoarding behaviors.

To be blunt, they live in filth and disorder. He buys everything in bulk and there are jumbo packs of everything all over the house. He is also obsessed by composting and leaves rotting vegetable matter throughout the house and deck area. They have three cats and he does not change the litter regularly (or perhaps at all). I was there today and removed over 150 pounds of sodden clumping litter. Because of this, the cats have taken to crapping on the floor of the basement.

My mother used to go over on a regular basis and attempt to clean, but on every visit, things had reverted to their previous state of total chaos and filth. Now, my mother is not so well and can no longer do it. I have been going over to help also but it just can't be fixed. He is very secretive about the basement and I was only able to do the cat litter today because he was out of town. The living conditions are just not acceptable.

My sister also is given to hanging onto things and together she and her husband are just a nightmare. I know that he came from a family of hoarders and that perhaps he doesn't smell it (it smells awful there) or notice the chaos and disorder. You cannot get the man to throw anything out.

I am going to be leaving to live in another city and I shudder to think what it will become without my small help. I usually can only clean one area per visit, as it takes so long and the basement is strictly off limits. We live in Saskatchewan, Canada and I would like any suggestions for dealing with this very serious problem. The debris on the floor is dangerous for my sister, who cannot lift her feet at all and the filth has to be bad for anyone, let alone the immunocompromised.

So please any suggestions for interventions, social agencies that could help or other strategies would be greatly appreciated because I love them very much and am so worried about what will happen to them. ( I'm pretty sure they have both had some serious bouts with food poisoning already although they call it stomach flu). In order to do a proper cleaning it would require several weeks of work and a large dumpster and he is absolutely dead against anyone throwing things away.
posted by alltomorrowsparties to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe they need to live in an assisted living facility.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:12 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Have you considered seeing if your sister is eligible for a home attendant?
posted by griphus at 9:30 PM on May 24, 2010

Perhaps they would be able to utilize the services here:
posted by chiababe at 9:42 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

This sounds far beyond hoarding. It also sounds a lot like my grandmother's behavior. She had at the time undiagnosed dementia.

I don't know if that's the case here, or whether your brother-in-law is so overwhelmed by caregiving (which, with a partner with advanced MS, is significant).

Have a sit down with your sister and discuss the situation. Ideally out of the house where you can talk to her one on one openly. But it sounds like, at the least, your brother-in-law needs to see a psychiatrist. And at the far end of the diagnosis spectrum, your brother-in-law may not be competent to care for your sister or himself.
posted by zippy at 9:44 PM on May 24, 2010

Also, if the situation so bad that it puts their health at risk, and this seems to be what you're describing, then you might consider calling the local health board if you can't get your sister and brother-in-law to see how bad the situation is.
posted by zippy at 9:46 PM on May 24, 2010

Your sister's doctor should be able to get her (or you) in touch with appropriate social services and/or a social worker associated with the hospital. Her medical care is compromised by her living conditions and this might give you some leverage to having doors opened on her behalf. If she won't access her doctor to ask and you can't access her doctor, I would contact your local community health clinic for a referral.

You can also try calling the general number for the Saskatchewan government department of social services. If they don't know who to contact right away, try the folks who deal with disabilities. These people should be able to point you in the right direction. I've had good luck explaining complicated things like this to the Alberta social services general numbers and eventually found someone who knew where to get the information. Hopefully you have similar luck across the border.
posted by kch at 9:48 PM on May 24, 2010

There's a new book called "Stuff" (authors = Frost and Steketee) which explains a lot about hoarding behaviors and describes the kinds of interventions most likely to work. It also has a list of resources in the back (loaned out my copy, sorry). The causes are complicated, but cleanups generally don't work without the hoarder's active engagement.

My impression was that this issue is more common than we know, and groups are springing up to help hoarders and their families.

Sorry you are dealing with this - best to you and your family.
posted by mozhet at 2:37 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

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