Newbie - looking for advice on caring for elderly Aunt

Not been on a forum before but here goes…….
I’m looking for some advice/help with looking after my Aunt who is 87. I am her only living relative, she never married and looked after my brother from when he was 9 as our mother was not able to take care of us due to ill health. (me and my 2 sisters were taken into care).

My Aunt worked full time as well as taking care of my brother who developed severe epilepsy among other things due to a hereditary brain disease, eventually it got too much for her and she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown so he went into residential care with her visiting him 3 days a week until he died in 1999.

In recent years she’s developed OCD, she’s a chronic hoarder and can’t seem to chuck ANYTHING away, her house is overrun with newspapers, junk mail and post. She won’t use the cooker because she worries about it being switched off – she went through a long phase of checking constantly that it was switched off before she could go to bed at night – sometimes she would still be up checking until 2-3am in the morning. She refuses to have a microwave and is living off salads, maltesers and whisky.
I live about an hour away from her. She has a fantastic neighbour who very kindly keeps an eye on her for me by popping in most days and doing her shopping for her once a week. I currently visit once a week when I take her favourite - fish and chips from the local chippy – if I try for anymore than once a week she accuses me of interfering and can get quite spiteful and argumentative.

The house smells really bad and is very dusty and dirty. She hasn’t had a bath or washed her hair for over a year, she’s been in the same clothes for a good 2 years now. She hasn’t left the house for over 2 and a half years, she has stopped using the upstairs of the house as she struggles to manage the stairs. She sleeps in her chair and uses the downstairs toilet which is disgusting (I can’t use it as it’s so bad). Her garden is a jungle but she refuses to allow anyone in to do the work for her – she sacked her gardener cause he “didn’t bother turning up” (not true as neighbour said he kept getting turned away and she wasn’t paying him).

She has now started to give her bank details out over the phone to all and sundry, signing up for stuff she doesn’t need and I am worried about her being scammed (she is financially well off). I spoke to the bank and explained her situation and they said they would put an alert on her account but they couldn’t give me any details of what’s happening with her bank accounts – she hides her bank statements. Since I spoke to them she has signed up for household breakdown cover that she doesn’t need.
I spoke to social services/mental health team and they weren’t much help – passed the buck between them. SS did ring my Aunt to ask how she was coping in general and she said her usual – that she’s fine. She hasn’t seen a doctor since before my brother died – not even sure if she’s still registered with one – she thinks they’re a bunch of charlatans and won’t take prescribed medication as she had a very bad experience with Prozac once.

When I try to talk to her about things her stock answer is “I’ll do it tomorrow” – obviously tomorrow never comes as nothing ever gets done. I’ve tried bringing my cleaning bits and hoover from home but get fobbed off with the “tomorrow” thing. She says she’s quite capable of doing things herself and will do them in her own time – she doesn’t need me interfering. If that doesn’t work she’s quite happy to tell out and out lies in the hope that I’ll shut up asking - case in point was when I asked her about what she was having to eat in the week she told me “meals on wheels” deliver a hot meal every day - this is something that is not on offer where she lives - she can only receive frozen meals to re-heat in microwave - when I call her out on this I get told that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Any advice would be gratefully received as I am at a loss as to how I can help her when she seems determined to neglect herself so badly and determined not to accept any help offered. Nothing I say seems to make a difference and I am loath to try and bully her as it’s not really in my nature to treat her like that – I have a deep respect for all that she did for my brother in keeping him out of the horror that was the 1960’s care system and then looking after him when he became very ill.

Sorry to be a bit long winded about the situation but thought it best to provide all the facts I could.

Your aunt is seriously ill. Self neglect to the level you describe makes her a very vulnerable adult, and Social Services have a duty to investigate, not just a quick phone call. Asking an elderly person how they are is, from my own experience, is pointless!

Can you take a few photos to show her GP? I know this sounds like being a traitor, but it’s the easiest way to get the ball rolling. Sometimes a doctor will visit using the line “we haven’t seen you for such a long time, and like to support our most “senior” patients”.

Doing nothing isn’t an option any more.

Google “Self neglect at a glance” SCIE. Also “Diogenes Syndrome” - a term I couldn’t remember earlier on.

Thanks Bowlingbun - I’ve rung social services again yesterday and re-explained the situation asking for a home visit so they can see what I’m dealing with, I am waiting for someone to call me back. The last few times I’ve contacted them they’ve said it’s a mental health issue due to the hoarding OCD etc., but the mental health team are saying no it’s a social care issue as she’s neglecting herself. They also used the whole Covid thing as an excuse for just ringing her - I told them it would be a waste of time but they just seem to ignore what I’m trying to tell them. Just feel like I’m being fobbed off by them both but after reading your reply I am determined not to be fobbed off anymore!!

I found an article on Diogenes Syndrome (never heard of it before) and was blown away with how everything it said about the illness matched her so I will mention that to them when they call back - thanks!!

I’ve asked the neighbour about the GP as I’m not sure she will still be registered with one as she hasn’t been for over 20 years. Like I mentioned previously - she thinks they are a bunch of charlatans due to previous bad practice experiences.

@Nanny-T Thanks for using our forum to reach out for support, and I am so sorry to hear that your Aunt is having such a difficult time at the moment. Some of what you are posting, around the self-neglect and vulnerability to financial abuse is obviously very concerning, so I will send you a private message with some pointers.

I only came across the term Diogenes Syndrome myself fairly recently, it described perfectly someone I knew 50 years ago.
When I was still living with mum and dad, I had to visit her regularly.
It was truly disgusting, with cats everywhere, I was very worried about catching fleas.

I made sure I had washable clothes on, made sure she was the last visit of the day, and warned mum in advance.
Mum then had buckets of Dettol ready for my clothes in the bathroom, I came in the front door straight to the bathroom, and had a shower and hair wash!

If Social Services and Health can’t agree whose job it is to visit, then ask them to do a JOINT visit, especially as no one knows who the GP is.

Just spoken to SS - they are arranging a home visit. Good job I rang them rather than waiting for them to call me back as the chap I spoke to yesterday hadn’t logged my concerns so wouldn’t have had a call from them.

I mentioned the Diogenes Syndrome to her and she said she’d not heard of it either so I told her to google it as it describes my Aunt to a T.

We will see what happens next.

Let us know how things go.