Dealing with aging parents..

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Posts: 431
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 10:31 am

Tue May 31, 2011 5:51 am

Well folks I know it's been some time since I last wrote. Of late I've been dealing with some family matters and now turn to the learned folks here for some answers/solutions. I'll just get right to the heart of the matter and ask...who has had to deal with aging parents and how do you do it? My folks are now in their mid 70's and while that's not particularly old theirs has been a hard life of factory work and it's taken it's toll. Mom is on oxygen puddy much all the time and Pap can't walk 20ft. without taking a break. They're still living at home and their minds are clear as a bell. the problem. Have any ya'll seen the series Hoarder...on t.v.?? Trust ain't funny and I'm smack in the middle of it. We (me and 2 brothers) finally managed to convince them into letting me put an a/c in the downstairs. (They can't climb the steps to go upstairs.) It took 2 1/2 hours to haul out enough junk from the livingroom to get to a window. Most of the junk got hauled upstairs or jammed into the garage...which is just relocating junk not getting rid of it. One of our biggest fears is fire. They'd never get out...probably not even IF they could get to a door. So we hauled enough junk out to allow free access to the front door. Tried to get a path to the back door....couldn't do it. Even if we could ya couldn't get thru the junk on the back porch to get out. Now, bear in mind when I say "junk" I mean...their "stuff." An example is the livingroom; 4 recliners, a sofa-bed, an office desk, 2 antigue curio cabinets and assordid cabinets and small tables, 2 t.v's, end tables and boxes & bags of...."stuff." All this inn'a 18X25ft. room. And I won't even get into the shelves upon shelves of knick-knacks. There's 50yrs. of collecting in 1 room alone. Give me a moment to breath and I'll start part 2. Sighhhhh....Audie...the Oldfart.

Posts: 431
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 10:31 am

Tue May 31, 2011 6:08 am

Well, I think ya'll are starting to get the picture. Now on top of all this Mom has been in the I.C.U. 6 times since Easter. I didn't know that till 3 weeks ago. I've made the 3hr. trip back home every weekend for the past 3 week to try an help where I can but I feel I need to do more. I love my folks enough that if it means quitting my job and selling my home and moving back home....I'll do it. What I'm hoping to do for now is convince them to allow us sons to clear out some of this junk to make life simpler and safer for them. How do I do it? They need enough room to manuver walkers (now) and possibly wheelchairs at some point. How does one convince their parents to give up any of the "stuff" they've collected thru the years without hurting their feelings? Even for their own safety. The older brother wants to have an "intervention" this weekend. He says we got to lay it on the line and make 'em see it's what needs to be done. I don't disagree....I just don't know where to even start. I'm not even sure this wouldn't send them right into depression or they might just tell us to bugger-off. So, who's dealt with this and how? The paramedics are already raising ++++ and if the fire marshall ever saw this he'd likely condemn the place. Next up...part 3...the lighter side. Audie......

Posts: 431
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 10:31 am

Tue May 31, 2011 6:27 am

Part 3...the lighter side. Folks, I find it theraputic to find humor in the most odd circumstances so here's a funny (to me anyway) tidbit. Mom was down in the I.C.U. recently and outside her room the doctor on call was raising holy ++++ about the old, overweight woman in room 118. He was quite vocal and horribly rude...but fortunatly out of Moms hearing. HOWEVER...what he didn't know was that the 260lb. 6ft.+ man standing behind him "little brother" Greg. :) Now, normally Greg is one of the most docile men you'd ever meet. Matter of fact, of all us sons he's the most calm. I've never seen him angry, never heard him raise his voice and don't think I've ever heard him curse. The doctor was quite surprised when the man behind him grabbed ahold of his shoulder and spun him around and threw him bodilly into a wheelchair in the hallway, in front of a dozen nurses, stuck a finger the size of a summer sausage in his chest and said...."That's my Mom you're talking about!" The doc regained enough composer to stammer out that he'd call security and that's when Greg started to take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves and asked....."How long do you figger it'll take them to get here???" Well by now the doc was getting real nervous and asked..."Why?" Greg said...That's how long I'll have to kick your +++ before they get here!!" At which point the doctor saw the error of his way an apoligized. He was wonderful to Mom after that. In's a good thing it was Greg and not Art or Jim. Either one of them would have thrown him right out of the nearest window...from the 2nd. floor. Me, I'd have just dragged him right to the Administration office...then I'd have kicked his +++! Audie...the Oldfart.

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Location: Weedsport, NY

Tue May 31, 2011 5:04 pm

Well Audie, I can feel for you. Perhaps you are fighting the wrong battle. By the sounds of it they need to give up the house and perhaps find a Seniors Apt. or assisted living if there are any near by. Many are income based so they should be affordable.
Both of my parents were young so I did not have to deal with it, but my wife's on the other hand were in a Senior Apartment for their last 20 years. They keep them small so you really can't bring too much "stuff".

"If I can't fix it, I can screw it up so bad no one else can either."

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Greg S
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Tue May 31, 2011 6:16 pm

How long has your mom been on oxygen. Depending on the duration you may simply want to wait things out for awhile rather than force any changes on her at this point.
An individual must enforce his own meaning in life and rise above the perceived conformity of the masses. (Anton LaVey)

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Location: Brockton Mass

Tue May 31, 2011 9:28 pm

A large enough percentage of people are "hoarders" or what some call "packrats". I'm not sure if it's yet classified as a mental illness, but it does adversely affect a lot of people. And a very difficult task to resolve because to them possessions=wealth.

In Massachusetts, what used to be called "Senior Citizen Housing" ain't anymore. It's a conglomeration of all ages with physical and mental handicaps. They're also a great dumping ground for legal and illegals with their cultures that don't always provide a happy "melting pot". They aren't necessarily safe, quiet, clean, or friendly. Many are now infested with bedbugs, despite every attempt to eradicate the problem. But the plus side is that they are affordable (about 30% of income often with exemptions for legitimate expenses); heat and electric are usually included (so hypothermia and heat exhaustion are rare); many have activities and at least one meal per day; housing authorities repair any problem promptly; many offer low cost cleaning, shopping, laundry services; and those built to code truly are fireproof.

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Location: Peoria, AZ

Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:25 am

Hi Audie,

I believe I understand your problem, I'm a bit of a hoarder myself but I do occasionally have a fit and throw things out! Here's a couple of suggestions you might want to try.

First off, have a word with the local paramedics, and arrange to borrow a gurney for an hour or so. Take it to the house and show them both how impossible it is to move it around with nobody on it, and that it could mean their lives if the paramedics can't get them to the hospital quickly enough. It's not enough to explain it, wheel in a real gurney and let them see for themselves!

Sounds like a lot of the heavier furniture is surplus to needs, so I'd suggest removing some of that first. Arrange it with your brothers to "modernize" their living space, removing some of the larger stuff and replacing it with smaller, lighter, modern items where needed. Things like chairs that are closer to wheelchair height for example. If you've ever been in a wheelchair, it's a vertical challenge - people standing up are too high, and you tower over anyone sitting on a sofa or armchair. When I was a kid and my grandfather lived with us, my father put two armchairs up on blocks, so anyone sitting in them was the same height as a person in a wheelchair! Consider installing wheelchair ramps on the doorways now - much easier when planned than leaving it until the last second!

Consider taking and selling off some of the nicknacks to buy a couple of hover-rounds or similar, which would increase their mobility tremendously. you can identify some of these as follows:

Set aside a "work area" in the living room, and have them sit down there for an hour or so each day, start going through all the small stuff from the rooms upstairs (which you bring down in batches). They can decide if they need it, if they want to sell it, etc. but the box for "keeping it" is only half the size of the box of items, and insist they write down WHY they want to keep each item. If nothing else, they will have a lot of fun with the memories of items they haven't seen in years! :)

Get some old cell phones, with no sim cards in them, and put them with their charger in all the bathrooms and any room that doesn't have a phone (they don't have to be plugged in as long as the charger cord is long enough to use them while plugged in). Even though they have no sim card, they can still call 911 in an emergency. Get some orange labels and stick them on the drawer where the cell phone is stored, to make them quick and easy to find. Hide a door key to the front door somewhere outside, and contact local police and fire and let them know where it is. The ideal solution is a fire-box outside the front door. Police and fire both carry keys to these, but otherwise they are secure. I know one lady who kept a key to the front door under a fishing gnome at the pond in the back garden - most thieves won't look that far for it!

You are probably going to meet with things like "I can't part with that, your great Aunt Maude gave it to me", and an easy answer is along the lines of "it would look great in my den/front room/whatever", or "Greg is a big guy and can't find anything big enough to hold him - how about you give it to him?"

My second wife's parents, when they finally retired, also had a lot of stuff accumulated, and a lot of it was farm equipment, but she came up with a novel idea. A new "country style" restaurant was opening up in the area, so a lot of the stuff was sold to them for decoration, including horse-drawn plough shares, balance scales and a lot more! Turned out her folks made the restaurant their favorite hangout on a Sunday, so they were still able to enjoy the stuff while someone else was paying to keep it clean and stored!

The hardest part will always be trying to get them to part with something, so getting them to explain why they want to keep it first will be very helpful. Then you can use an argument along the lines of "I know it's a sturdy old table and might be useful in the future, but if we get rid of it, we can move this sofa back there and leave you some room for your hover-round that you can use now - wouldn't that be better?"

Personally, I don't envy you that task, but I hope that some of the above ideas may work for you, or may germinate into something useful!


Posts: 431
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 10:31 am

Thu Jun 02, 2011 8:13 am

Folks sorry it's taking so long to get back but as always...constantly running. Anyways, thanks for some excellent tips and insight and I'm sure gratefulle! I'll keep checking back. Hoping to give the folks a few weeks to recover before burdening them with this but know it has to be done. Again...many thanks! Audie...the Oldfart...:)

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Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:46 am

I've worked with a few folks on clearing the proverbial path and here is what has worked best.

Regarding the big pieces: "I know of some folks who could really use that furniture after dealing with disasters, would you like to help them?" Then cart it off to Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc.

Stacks of "stuff" "How about we go through this and see haw we can arrange it so you can use it more easily?" About 20 minutes into the project, they are willing to let most of it go to concentrate on the good stuff.

I suggest that they make formal gifts to family members of the things that were intended for them someday. I bring a couple big tote bags and much praise for filling them. I always try to leave a big bag or two behind as well, for when inspiration strikes. We also have an area set aside for things to offer to friends/family.

It is a slow process, they identify their worth by what they have accumulated so you have to value it even more highly to get them to give it up. Safety issues create fear and may shut them down completely. And, they will often listen to relative strangers more readily than family. Good luck with it!

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:28 pm

Good luck, dealing with older parents who are ill is hard.

Dealing with hoarders is a whole other issue. I do have a tendency to keep more than I should but I don't like a mess everywhere, but my closet which is 20 square feet is filled to the brim.

It's dumb to keep stuff that you haven't used in years and can't find or get to it when you do need it. I'm bad at throwing things out. When I bought my 42" TV I kept the huge box for a year in a closet. After a while you don't know where everything is so you end up rebuying a lot of things that you need.

Reason with them that they don't need all that stuff and it's just stuff that you will have to throw out when they pass away. It's not a safe environment and if they are rational they will realize that if they don't need all that extra junk. If they have a large home let them keep one bedroom for a junk room and put a smoke detector outside of it.

Don't worry about hurting their feelings. Let them know that the town can have them forced to clean it all out if anyone finds out about it. Remind them how happy they will be when everything is clean and they can get around easily, You only need one couch in the living room and maybe a chair and a table and end tables. All that stuff is just junk that is weighing them down.