Help - I can’t do this!

Right, here goes… I’m new here. I am the sole carer (if you can call it that) for my Mum who is 84. She has been in pretty rapid decline over the past 2-3 years (when she broke her hip in a fall). She is constutionally pretty healthy (doesn’t get colds, blood pressure of a teenager, claims never to have had a headache, never complains of aches or pains, never been on any medication ever!) however she is very bent over with (I presume) Osteporosis, and shuffles when she walks. Her feet/ ankles look rather swollen and (although she denies it) I think they might be painful. The trouble is, she absolutely refuses to visit the doctor, (never has flu vaccine, never goes to dentist, never had any of the usual screening tests she was invited to). In fact at one point her GP contacted her to see if she was still ‘around’. I think that she is also showing signs of early stage Dementia (forgets everything she’s told, gets very confused with paperwork, banking stuff, gets in a state when writing a cheque out, makes mistakes with the time, sometimes forgets the right words, is a hoarder etc etc). She is of course in total denial about this, claims she is “always so busy” which is why she sometimes forgets things. She gets angry & upset if I try to suggest a visit to the doctor.
She lives alone in a 4 bedroom house (which she has now filled with clutter & tatt which she buys at charity shops and markets) & refuses to let me remove any of it or (now) even to go upstairs. I work & don’t live that close to her, and she has lots of friends so, until now, I have just let her “get on with it”. I suffer from anxiety and high blood pressure and I admit that I have taken the easy option which was not to do much for her. She had a very good male friend (for the past 8 years since my Dad passed away) who helped her out a lot with taking her shopping, to clubs, doing gardening for her & small household repairs etc. They saw each other Nearly every day, ate evening meals together (sometimes at his house, sometimes at hers). They’d fetch takeaways several times a week, and go out to a dance every Saturday, They even spent Christmas Day together. Although he was recently 90, her friend appeared to be in good health. Until TODAY. He died this morning when sitting in his car outside another friends’ house. This is why I am here. I realise that now my Mum will be relying on me for all this assistance and companionship which she previously had with her friend. She has some other old lady friends but I don’t think any of them are going to be able to help her or drive her around like he did. I KNOW how selfish this is going to sound but I just don’t think I’m going to be able to cope. My Mum is so unreasonable in her refusal to see a doctor or even clear out her junk. I am not a calm person and we just end up shouting at each other nearly every time I see her (I normally visit her twice a week at the moment). I just don’t know how to deal with this. My husband left me 10 years ago and I have a new partner now but he also finds my Mum difficult to cope with, so if I have to spend a lot more time with her, I am concerned that this is also going to wreck my relationship with my partner. I know that this all sounds like ‘ me, me, me’ and I do feel really mean and selfish, but I feel like I have got to have a life of my own, to keep me sane (I am on medication for anxiety). I used to have a good relationship with my Mum but she is just a shell of the person she used to be. I can’t even have a sensible conversation with her anymore - she has about 3 or 4 topics which get repeated over and over. It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ and it’s incredibly difficult to deal with. Any suggestions? Be as rude as you like, I know how selfish I sound.

No you do not sound selfish. I can relate to your post to a huge degree re how I felt about my late father. Please remember you do NOT have to take over her care as it would be very detrimental to your own health and well being.

I think personally that you need to write to her GP. It is a very grey area and sadly it seems to have to reach crisis point before Social Services will step in. You could also phone your local carers group for ideas? I think if she is deemed to have ‘mental capacity’ then it is very hard to MAKE her accept help unless a crisis occurs. You could also write to Adult Social Services and stress that she is a vulnerable adult and that they have a duty of care? In both letters I would stress, that you are NOT going to sleepwalk into being her carer. I had to do this for my late father - very hard but if I had allowed him to continue to tell people that I was his carer and lived over the road, I would have had a total breakdown. Thankfully, I had good friends who made me very aware of how fragile I was. My father, like your mother, was not an easy man and I am also caring for my difficult 80 year old husband.

Others will no doubt give more and better advice but please keep a notebook of your concerns and please consider a letter to the GP and Adult Social Care. And no, I do not think you are being at all selfish and neither will the posters here. Far better to get help now than be pushed mentally and physically to carer breakdown.

I agree with Helena, don’t sleep walk into this.
Mum must go through the grieving process for her friend, and understand that she has no right to help from you.

My mum was a hoarder, any attempt to get her to part with her stuff was futile, she ended up being admitted to a nursing home for the last year of her life because she wouldn’t let me empty her stuff out of her main bedroom, piled high with furniture, to make a pretty bedroom with ensuite for her.

It took me and my two sons a year to clear her house, a complete nightmare.

Sadly, something will happen to your mum that will force a change in circumstances (sepsis in my mum’s case), it’s a horrible situation but once someone is a pensioner it’s probably impossible to change the way they are. Don’t waste your time trying.

There is a long and difficult road ahead. I would strongly recommend counselling for you, some regular support from someone not involved in the situation. I found it really helpful.

Thank you both. I have calmed down a bit today, had a terrible night but haven’t seen my Mum today. Spoke to her on the phone though and have already been asked to be a taxi for trip to town and hairdresser tomorrow.
Have resolved to (try) to be firm, keep calm and take it one day at at time. This website is going to be a godsend though I can tell already, for support with what I know isn’t going to be an easy onward ‘journey’. (Hate that word but can’t think of a better way of putting it).
All advice gratefully received :pray:t2:

You are NOT a taxi company!! This is an issue that crops up here from time to time. Tell mum to ring for a proper taxi instead.

  1. Work out what you will happily help mum with.
    As my own mum was disabled, housebound and had never dealt with family finances, she hadn’t a clue what to do when dad died. On the other hand I’d always managed our own domestic finances, something I could do when my husband worked, so I did them for mum.
    Make sure your mum sorts out Power of Attorney for you whilst she is still well, ready for later. Do you know anything about mum’s finances?
    If she is a hoarder, top priority should be making sure that she keeps all her financial stuff in one place.
    If he paperwork just piles up and isn’t filed, then offer to do her filing and putting what she doesn’t need in the recycling bin. When my brother was dying in Uruguay, I had to sort out his home in the UK. I found that his idea of filing was to put it in a heap. TEN YEARS of filing to do, I found nearly £20,000 of pension/insurance money he was entitled to with a terminal diagnosis, that he didn’t have a clue about!

  2. Work out what someone else can do
    Domestic help and gardening come into this category
    What is mum’s garden like? Tidy or jungle?
    One day you are going to be responsible for making it tidy to sell it, so make sure it is under control.
    The more you feel under control the better you will feel, it’s a very daunting prospect.

  3. What can something else do?
    Does mum have a dishwasher, tumble dryer, walk in shower?

  4. What doesn’t need to be done by anyone at all, but can be ditched completely.
    Ironing can come into this category

  5. What will I do when…
    Also, think about whether one day you would like to live there, or you will sell it, when the time comes.
    Are you aware of how the charges work should mum need residential care in future?
    If you have a notebook of computer file for mum, you can write down everything that’s worrying you, and everything that you have decided. You might even like to find out about funeral directors charges whilst she is well and it all seems very remote, because it’s easier then than when you need to do this in an emergency.

In this way, you will feel more in control, more confident about managing whatever happens in the future, rather than constantly worrying about it.

When mum rings you with the next job, just think is this needed, can someone else do it, how can I avoid it in future.
I’m slightly disabled, 67, my eldest son lives with me. We are now doing our best to ditch anything we don’t need any more and reducing work in the house and large garden as much as possible. My once pretty garden has gone, replaced by a large patio with a few pots and a lawn with no borders at all. My son spends 20 minutes on the garden tractor lawn mower and it all looks immaculate. Now I can sit outside and enjoy the sun without looking at the jobs. I wish I’d done it years ago.

Finally, when did you last have a holiday? It’s really important that you enjoy your own life and care for your own health, never ever put off anything just in case mum needs you.

Thanks Bowlingbun for your very helpful reply.
My Mum is very lonely since her friend died on Tuesday and for some reason even more confused. She’s been phoning me every day, mostly with trivial stuff but also has got terribly muddled up with some of her paperwork. Trouble is that she is very reluctant to allow me to deal with this for her . She claims that it “isn’t normal “ for daughters to deal with their parents’ paperwork! I have had to assure her that it is completely normal! We are in the process of organising Powers of Attorney. I found a very helpful solicitor and they are being signed on Monday.
She hasn’t got a dishwasher, tumble dryer or walk in shower! The first two might be a problem due to lack of space, and unfortunately as for the shower, she refuses to use showers … says she hates them!
No good discussing funerals etc. With her as she thinks she’s going to be around for the foreseeable future (at the moment I feel like I might not be)!
Unfortunately my partner seems to take the view that I should just let her get on with it, and not get involved or help or even answer her calls. He didn’t have a good relationship with his own parents so I don’t think that he understands that I cannot just abandon her- she’s my Mum!
As you can probably tell, I feel very up & down about all of this. I want to help, I know that I need to do it calmly and that I will need support.

As mum is 84, it’s a very good age, and now she is paying the price for living a long life (unlike my lovely husband who died at 58), and sadly, the older we get, the more we need a hand with a few things. There is no shame in a daughter helping, but there is shame in paying bills late etc.

What was dad like with this sort of thing?

If mum lives in a large 4 bed house and doesn’t let you upstairs, I suspect that your top priority needs to be going upstairs!

In theory, she has three spare bedrooms and should have oodles of room for a tumble dryer or washer dryer upstairs.

My son has the upstairs of our house, I have the downstairs, and we each have a washer dryer in our bathrooms, installed by a fully qualified electrician, compliant with all the regulations. It’s really no different from having one under the sink in the kitchen. You just have to have what is called a “fused spur”. How does mum wash and dry her clothes at the moment?

This, though, takes us back to the hoarding.
When did it start? Is it becoming a health hazard from a cleanliness point of view, is it waste, or just accumulated “stuff”.

I would describe my own mum as a “clean hoarder”, obsessed with things being put away clean, in two plastic bags and a masking tape label. She could throw away rubbish, but couldn’t let go of things from her past life.
When clearing the house ready for sale, my eldest son and I had a competition to find the oldest label - 1968, the year they moved there, when I was just 16! I think she had kept every single birthday and Christmas card she had ever been sent!
Seven years before she died my mum fell and broke her leg, the OT was dismayed to see the house and insisted that mum had to sell some furniture before she could go back home. Of course, that ended up being me doing it, but faced with discharge to a reduced hoard, or a nursing home, mum reluctantly agreed for me to get rid of some things. Mum and dad loved Ercol. They had at least 10 dining tables, over 60 dining chairs, 10 sideboards…even Ercol studio couches suspended from large cup hooks from the rafters in one of her garages! Both were full of Ercol, she used my old bedroom so she could store more stuff in the large main bedroom. Tables even had chairs on top of them!!

The hoarding is the biggest issue affecting her future, I’d suggest getting the POA done asap,;going upstairs somehow; and then having a discussion with her GP if possible.
I know only too well how depressing all this is, and it’s only going to get worse from now until she dies.
Sometimes the term “elderly toddler” is used here, a term I hate, but can’t find a better one. Mum may be your parent, but your role is now to parent your parent.
You need to think ahead about the care she is going to need in the future, ideally how to introduce someone else to the house, perhaps in the guise of a domestic help to do the “heavy work” you can’t, only someone from a care agency!
Also find out more about the residential care homes in the area, how much they charge, what they are like, which one you like the most.
Parents tend to muddle along for months or years, then have a “life changing moment” when nothing is ever the same again, an illness, or a fall, or a broken limb, or a stroke. The more you can be prepared for these, the easier it will be when that moment happens.

First of all, welcome. I am fairly new myself. What I have to say is YOU ARE NOT SELFISH! I have experienced the so-called “carer guilt” myself when I was caring for my grandmother (now she has a carer who comes at home). What I can say is that it is normal to feel this way. I think every carer goes through this in way way or another.
I cared for my grandmother for about 3 years on and off, coming do visit and helping her with all sorts of errands she had to do, but as her dementia progressed it became more and more difficult. I went through a lot of guilt and shame, I kept asking myself Am I doing enough? and putting myself down. But I’ve come to the realisation that I have to care for myself first. That’s why I’ve convinced my mum to hire a carer for her and we share the costs of that. I think that was the best decision we ever made. And don’t get me wrong, we still visit her often, but it just releases the burden and the worry and the anxiety. I’ve found great help online on how to cope with these feelings. I’ll leave some links for you. Anyway, now that you’re in this forum, you’ll find that many people go through the same and are always willing to offer their advice. I hope you’ll be well.

On the subject of hoarding, there are lots of ways to seek help for her.

There are lots of self help books at your local library to borrow free. Ask your librarian for suggestions. Or you can search online on Amazon or goodreads. Alternatively you can see if your nearest bookstore has any books on decluttering as well. I recommend starting at your local library for help. Also approach your GP, they can help by referring her to appropriate local community mental health services.

Hoarding is a mental disorder. Make a list of goals for her with her permission. Review them often to ensure that she is on track. Can you donate unwanted things to local charity shops or not? You may also wish to read this helpful article on hoarding and how to request help This is another excellent article on hoarding and how to stop it.

What are her hobbies? Can she work? Perhaps try talking therapy. This article covers possible treatment options for hoarding that may or may not work

I did everything I could for 30 years, but nothing worked.
My Mum was housebound for about 30 years, but looking back, I’m sure she had some sort of agoraphobia or similar. She made so many excuses not to go out by herself, would only go out with me or dad if he was home. As a result, she became more and more unfit. She wouldn’t even come over to my home when I offered to collect her and bring her back.
Acceptance was a long, hard road for me, but once I accepted she was incapable of change, it became much easier for me. I’m telling you this so that you don’t feel that you have failed in some way if she won’t change. No one could have tried harder than me.

Thanks again everyone- including thara_1910 for the useful hoarding info.
Here I am, up again at 2am worrying myself sick about the situation…
Went round to Mum’s house today & discovered another load of junk has arrived. Turns out she asked her friends’ son (who has started cleared out his Dads’ flat) if she could have “a few” of his things to keep. So we now have a large ‘really useful’ box full of stuff sitting under her kitchen table (not the only thing under there) and a large painting propped up in her hallway (there were already several & there’s no wall space to ever hang them)! Added to this, an undecorated Christmas tree has somehow arrived and is standing between the front door and the entrance to her lounge - blocking the doorway. I get the impression that Mum has given up trying to get it any further, and can’t locate the decorations or lights for it which she wouldn’t have a clue what to do with now anyway! I really am at the end of my tether.
Apparently her neighbour (who runs a care agency) has promised to call round. I don’t know if she’s been in there previously but I’m sure she’ll be horrified at the mess my Mum lives in (it is ‘clean’ mess - lots of old junk & tatt that she’s bought from car boot sales and charity shops. Stuff other people normally just take to the tip but for some reason Mum thinks she’s going to be selling it all for a profit - which she’s been saying for several years, while accumulating more & more ‘stock’)!
Fact is, I know she’ll never clear it herself, it’s all got too much for her now. And to be honest, a very daunting prospect for me!

Yes, I’m very familiar with the plans to sell that never happen too!

I think you now need to ask the Fire Service to assess whether the home is safe. It sounds like in the event of fire mum could end up trapped. Have you been upstairs yet???

I used to watch the Hoarder TV programmes and was interested that in America people can effectively have their homes taken away from them if they become a fire/health hazard.

The friend’s son needs to stop taking any more junk there too!

Well, here I am on Christmas Day, up in my bedroom having some ‘quiet time’ away from my Mum. Day was going ok until we face-timed my brother who lives in Scotland.
He is adopted (been with us from 3 months) and about 20 or so years ago, decided that he wanted to trace his birth mother. Unfortunately she had died before he could be reunited with her, but he discovered a half brother and sister, who he has since become very close to. My Mum was fully aware of all of this (or so I thought) as it was her who originally told me when his birth mother was traced and found to have passed away.
Now my brother is spending Christmas Day with his half-brother & family. So obviously they were all there on the screen when we face-timed and I had a bit of a chat with his brother & got ‘introduced’ to the kids and brother’s wife. When the call had ended, my Mum asked “who were those people”? I told her that they were my brother’s half-brother (sorry if this is sounding confusing!) and then all hell broke loose! She claimed that she knew nothing about them… she didn’t even know that he had traced his birth mother. She said she was in shock at this “bombshell” and that she would have to call my brother (or his wife) to find out whether I was telling her the “truth”. I told her that this was further evidence of a memory problem and she then blamed my Dad (dead for 8 years) and said that he must have hidden the details from her.
Anyway to cut a long story short, I have had to take a break to get some peace. I suppose I should have realised that this might have been “news” to her (but I am afraid that it hadn’t occurred to me). She is still in total denial of a memory problem and refuses to see her GP, despite my partner pleading with her today to go, if nothing else to prove us all wrong, which she insists we are! How can I get her to acknowledge the issues?

I’m not sure that you will, because of the illness itself, but what you have said today shows that it’s getting more serious.

If you haven’t done anything yet, sort out that Power of Attorney urgently, because from what you describe, the time to do this may be just about over. If you don’t get it don’t while she has capacity, it’s a very difficult and long winded process to get legal guardianship (may not be the precise term).

Also, her mental state as described means you might as well give up any idea of her sorting out her hoard too.
Don’t waste your energy even trying.
Mum is almost in the 85+ category of the “very elderly”.
From now on focus clearly on what she is going to need between now and the time she is no longer alive, however long that might be.
It is unlikely that carers in the home would be suitable, given the state it is in.
Look at local nursing homes, especially EMI homes (Elderly Mentally Infirm) or those with an EMI section within them. The good ones have long waiting lists. If you do this, when mum does finally have to move out, it is the last move she will ever make, to somewhere you have researched and put her on a waiting list for, not an emergency placement miles from home that she can never leave to come nearer loved ones.
I know all this makes grim reading, but you are now effectively parenting mum.