Hoarding and Alzheimer's
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hoarding and Alzheimer's

I am not sure if Hoarding and Alzheimers both go together for everyone or if its just my mother.  I have just returned from cleaning out her house. (This is a monumental statement!!)    My fellow and I had over the last year and a half moved numerous items out of the house to protect and preserve certain family treasures.  But every time I entered her home I became overcome with anxiety and depression.  Her house is so piled with items that there is just a trail to walk through it.  The house is small just two bedrooms and one bath but it has a large dinning room.  We knew we needed to clean it out but this last year and a half has been so overcome with other more important tasks that this was not a priority.  The home was secured and was watched over by everyone in the small town that she lived it and it was a mountain that we were not ready to attempt.  Everyone had different suggestions on how we could conquer this.  But we both knew at the end it would be just him and I and we would plow through it.  We knew we would have to search every box and every corner to insure we didn't throw away anything of value.  We have opened boxes in the past that were packed with dishes and then in the middle of them would be a wrench or a socket set or any other mechanic's tool  wrapped and packed in the middle of the glassware???   I have often heard of hoarders that they kept everything near them to insure that it was never lost.  I never and have decided to quit trying to figure out why tools where packed in with the dishes. Maybe to hid the tools???  And this is just example of what was packed together.  My mother was always in the process of unpacking and repacking her "treasures" and  everything else was stacked everywhere in her home.  I know now that was comfort to her to insure she still had procession of these items.  Of course she never quit checking so she just continued to pack and repack.   What was also an major issue was she had a moving van parked on her property that was also full of boxes, junk etc etc etc.  My father had obtained the moving van years and years ago.  My mother used it for storage and it was huge and piled to the top with everything. The next time you see a moving van traveling down the highway, check it out,  I am talking about the huge 18 wheeler moving vans not the little U-Haul trucks we rent.  That was the size of her "storage room".     What was also so sad is that she never enjoyed her finer things since they were so overcome by the junk.   My fellow and I had been working on the moving van for months, every time we traveled to her hometown, we would take numerous loads of items to the dumpsters and bring a load of boxes and other items home with us.  Prior to unloading at our home we would go through them to determine if we could sell any of the items in the estate sale we are planning for her trust fund or if we needed to donate them to our local Salvation Army.  We have everything of any possible value however slight stored in our barn.  It is overwhelming but when we are finished with cleaning out her properties, we do have room on our little farm and the huge barn to have an awesome estate sale.   But there are times I am so overwhelmed packing her treasures that I have a flashback that I have become her.  And I have to walk away.

A couple of weeks ago we had an opportunity to be in the area of her home for an extended period of time.  My fellow was asked by his nephew to help out in his new plumbing company.  This area is in the middle of an oilfield boom and our nephew was overwhelmed with new contracts and numerous  requests for plumbers. Great news for our nephew and a brand new company!  My fellow was a plumber prior to entering law enforcement so we packed our panties and moved into a sorta apartment in the rear of the Plumbing Business. This gave my fellow an opportunity to help out with his nephew and work with his brother who is also a plumber with the company (my momma-in-law also works here).  It also gave me a chance to travel each day to my mothers and start on her house.  I refused any help from paid companies (she can't afford it) or help from the locals (I was too embarrassed for anyone to view her home).  I just kept my head down and brought rolls of huge trash bags and started picking and throwing.  I started with the living room and two pickup loads of trash later, I found her living room.  I spent the week just cleaning and making numerous trips to the town's dumpsters. They have 11 dumpsters in this small town, not 10 or 12 but 11, all lined up on a vacant lot!!!.  I don't know why in all the clutter and mayhem this bothered me.   OCD?????  LOL!    I will not bore anyone with the number of trash bags I used or the trips to the dumpsters but by the weekend I had things kinda under control.  It is also so confusing as to what she stored or kept.  I didn't take but two pictures mainly because I didn't wish for the memories.    I found boxes and boxes of broken and bald dolls, broken toys (damaged beyond repair), over 10 boxes of different coffee cups (some broken and wrapped carefully awaiting repair), broken furniture that was also beyond repair.  I found boxes of items from my youth and boxes of items that must have come from numerous garage sales packed in the same boxes.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg on the items I found.    She was unable mentally to throw anything away even shattered glassware.  She was never able to obtain the power of clearing out and cleansing. 
Bedroom- Before

  My fellow was able to help me over the weekend and he completed the cleaning of items I just couldn't face.  We packed dishes and items that we thought might sell.  When faced with so much, it overcame me and not sure if I made the correct decisions but it's done.  We filled our horse trailer (I know horse trailer, it's a Texas thing, we all have one and it's perfect for moving) with everything.  I just needed to return on Monday with more boxes to finish packing  and to clean out 4 filling cabinets of paperwork. 
By the time I finished  with this week and a half I had turned my ankle (hole near dumpsters) skinned my palm and knee (fell in hole near dumpsters when I turned my ankle) and caused a huge hematoma on the knuckle of my right hand.  (Bungee cord snapped back on my knuckle trying to strap down several trunks in trailer)

Bedroom- After
 My fellow still had plumbing to do so he checked my load and I headed out and drove 4 hours pulling a horse trailer filled with my mothers "treasures".   And  I thought about everything, not good!  Even though this was a great burden off my back, it was so very sad.  Out of the four people that moved into that home as a family in the 1970's I was the only one to move out, all others lost for various reasons.  And of course the fact that my mother guarded all her stuff with a passion (she once refused to talk to me for almost a year because I cleaned her house) she now doesn't remember any one of the items and they mean nothing to her.     If I taken her back to this house she would had probably told me what a mess someone had left.  I have shown her several of her favorite items or placed them in her room at the Alzheimer's Care Facility and she shows no recognition. I am sure that no one could have prevented this since my mother was always a strong minded woman who would not take help or advice from anyone.
 I always wish to hear the moral of the story or the happy ending but not sure what it is here.  Maybe clean out all your junk and give your children or grandchildren your treasures so they don't have to go though what we have gone though and you get to see their faces when they received the treasured items.    I do still remind myself that my Fellow and I are doing the right thing, we might not make the right decisions when we look back but we are making the best decisions that we can today.  I am so surprised at my strength in sharing this post but I have had such a positive and supportive response from my readers on my posts on Alzheimers and I am sure I am not alone in dealing with hoarding issues. 

18 comments:

  1. Bless you for doing that for her. What an amazing difference in the bedroom!

    I'm going to go read some of your Alzheimers posts to see what we're in for. I have a family member with dementia and there is just nothing more heartbreaking to endure as a family. Especially when not all family is on the same page. *grr*

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    1. It is so very heartbreaking! And from everything I have read, usually the family is not on the same page and all the responsibity falls on one person. (exactly the case in my situation, I thank God every day that I have my hubby to be with me every step of the way. We have turned into the one person)

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  2. Hi Evelyn. Thanks for checking out my blog.
    My father passed away recently and he suffered from a dementia similar to Alzheimers called Frontal Temporal Dementia. In his last year, he wasn't really a hoarder, but he spent a lot of money on things he and mother really didn't need. He had the ducts cleaned twice, bought into Direct Buy, replaced the perfectly good vacuum cleaner and bought a third car (and he wasn't even allowed to drive!). I think dementia changes personalities in so many ways. Luckily, by the time my father passed away, my mother was able to return/unsubscribe to everything he had bought into. Enjoy yourvtime with your mom. Everything can be "cleaned up" at a later date.

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    1. You are so right. The behavior and personality changes are unbelievable for suffers of Dementia or Alzheimers. I am glad your mother was able to correct everything.

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  3. I know what it's like to love with Hoarders as well as family members suffering from Alzheimers. Both are really tough, but I think I would choose a hoarder any day. On My Move we have a great infographic to see what hoarder tendencies you may be dealing with. http://www.mymove.com/blog/infographic:-are-you-a-hoarder?/?blogId=730069

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  4. I feel your pain. My parents both had dementia. I don't think they really "hoarded" stuff although there was an awful lot to dispose of when we cleared out the house.

    I hope you take time to relax and enjoy the Easter weekend.

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    1. Yes, I am definitely taking Easter off Mentally and Physically:) Thanks

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  5. Not easy with that disease so hard on those left ~ you sound like you are doing the best you can ~ I am 'wishing for you what you wish for yourself' ~ hope your 'dream rving begins soon' ~ namste, ^_^

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  6. HI Evelyn,

    The name of your blog caught my eye :) I'm with ya-sista.. on all accounts. In my fifties, exhausted from raising a family, still working part time, 2 dogs, and a father with Alzheimers that was a hoarder. We are going down South next week to visit and help my Mom. Life is something else isn't it?

    Take care,

    leslie

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    1. Yes, Life does throw some kinda curve balls. Enjoy being with your mom:)

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  7. Really like your blog!
    A wonderful post!

    Have you got an account in instagram?
    If yes, write me your name!

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  8. Wow. My dad wasn't a hoarder but he did have Alzheimer's so I can relate to or imagine some of the other things you are dealing with outside of cleaning out her home. A huge undertaking for sure. Hoarding or at least hiding things is a common trait when it comes to this disease. My heart goes out to you. This is such a hideous disease that takes such a financial and emotional toll on the patient and their family.
    Hugs to you for sharing and I am glad you chose to link this up to BeColorful this week.
    pam

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  9. I am so sad for you, what a hard thing to do. Ironically just yesterday I heard that a former work friend of many years,who we knew had early Alzheimer's, has become a hoarder. Your post has helped me realize this is not an isolated symptom. Thank you.

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  10. I feel your pain, you are doing all the right things and at least you won't have regrets. I lost my Dad 4 yrs ago and I never did know what had caused his mental instability, he died 3 weeks after I admitted him to a nursing home. He was unable to accept help from me or my children and lived in filth becasue he was unable to care for himself, he ran off home health care worked and went through the life savings he and my Mom had worked their whole lives for by a group of undesireable people he got involved with. He lived alone for 10 yrs after my Mom passed on and it progressively got worse with each year. I have many regrets though that I didn't handle it right. We now have problems with my mother-in-law, she is definiely a hoarder, there are only small pathways in her rooms and only her spot on the couch to sit in, her house is in really bad shape but reapirs are impossible, any mention of her moving though sets off hostility and anger. Best Wishes to you.

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    1. I am so sorry for what you went through with your father and what is coming in dealing with your mother-in-law. I so wish I had the right answers, I would send them your way in a heartbeat. I can only send my prayers and tell you that you are not alone. One of the saddest parts of this is the "undesirable people" that take advantage of our loved ones usually walk away free and are never punished. My mother lost thousands of dollars to a group of these parasites and because of her medical condition she is not a credible witness. We were able to put together one case that is documented by paper only to press charges against them. But this is rare so these leaches move on to prey on others. But I do believe there is a special place in hell for these dregs of society.

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  11. Evelyn Bless your heart for going through all of this. It is one of the sad realities of life that none of us should have to go through but so many do. I have a good friend who is a horder mainly fabric but a horder none the less. she has a small trail through her apartment that she can walk from her bed to the bathroom and to her front door. it is sooooo sad. But no matter what you do or what you say it is not going to change. It is bad enough that you have had to deal with the hoarding but to have to deal with the alzheimers too is a huge responsibility. I do hope that now you are enjoying life and realizing that you did everything you could . I have seen what alzheimers does to people. when we lived in a little town up north I had a beauty shop and did hair in the nursing home one day a week. several people came through with alzeimers and it was so heartbreaking for both them and their families. Most of the time they had no idea what was going on and other times for just a few minutes you could talk to them like it was yesterday and they would remember every thing. I applaud you for visiting your mom even if she doesn't recognize you. no body knows for sure just what they know but I do know that one of the little ladies I worked on would have sane moments where she would talk about her daughters and wonder where they were. so kootos to you!for hanging in there. and congratulations on getting it all cleaned out. wish you lived closer as I would have offered to help you! you take care Linda

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Thank you so much for your sweet comments:)))