#1  
Old 09-14-2016, 06:57 PM
flygirl2172 flygirl2172 is offline
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Help with family situation

Dear Straight Dope Readers,
My 96 year old mother lives in Dundalk, Maryland and I live in Denver, Colorado. She is living with a 60 year old brother that is a hoarder. The home smells of feces and urine. The bathroom is filled with black mold. When you go to turn on a light in a room often time the lights do not work. My brother and Mother are ashamed of how the interior of the home looks. I just found out that this past summer my brother would not fix the air conditioning. Two reasons I figure. One it cost money to fix and two, someone coming inside the home would tell the health department on what is going inside the home. They are both afraid of anyone finding out. I contacted Elder Abuse for Baltimore County and they said they will do nothing to help my Mother. Police Department said to call social services. Social services will not help and I am at my wit's end. I wanted to return my Mother to my home in Denver, Colorado and she will not come. I am so upset that I can barely function. Please help. [Name and phone number deleted by moderator]

Thanks

Last edited by Colibri; 09-14-2016 at 07:27 PM. Reason: Deleted personal information
  #2  
Old 09-14-2016, 07:00 PM
flygirl2172 flygirl2172 is offline
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[QUOTE=flygirl2172;19628997]Dear Straight Dope Readers,
My 96 year old mother lives in Dundalk, Maryland and I live in Denver, Colorado. She is living with a 60 year old brother that is a hoarder. The home smells of feces and urine. The bathroom is filled with black mold. When you go to turn on a light in a room often time the lights do not work. My brother and Mother are ashamed of how the interior of the home looks. I just found out that this past summer my brother would not fix the air conditioning. Two reasons I figure. One it cost money to fix and two, someone coming inside the home would tell the health department on what is going inside the home. They are both afraid of anyone finding out. I contacted Elder Abuse for Baltimore County and they said they will do nothing to help my Mother. Police Department said to call social services. Social services will not help and I am at my wit's end. I wanted to return my Mother to my home in Denver, Colorado and she will not come. I am so upset that I can barely function. Please help. [Deleted name and phone number]
Thanks
PS I considered kidnap.

Last edited by Colibri; 09-14-2016 at 07:28 PM.
  #3  
Old 09-14-2016, 07:03 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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This is the forum for factual questions. It looks more like you're seeking advice, which should go in our IMHO forum. I'll ask the mods to move it over there for you.
  #4  
Old 09-14-2016, 07:03 PM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is offline
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Reported for forum change. I have a lot of advice, as well, but it's mostly "try social services again, calmly and firmly" and "don't kidnap anyone."
  #5  
Old 09-14-2016, 07:11 PM
SpoilerVirgin SpoilerVirgin is offline
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Did you contact Maryland Access Point of Baltimore County, which looks like the starting point for accessing services for seniors?
  #6  
Old 09-14-2016, 07:29 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Since the OP is asking for advice, this is best suited to IMHO. I have also deleted the OP's name and phone number. We suggest that you do not post personal information here. If you want to, you can ask people to PM or email you.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator
  #7  
Old 09-14-2016, 09:24 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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There are people who specialize in cleaning up hoarders' homes. You could try convincing your mom that these people have already seen it all and they're not going to think the slightest thing about the state of the home.
  #8  
Old 09-15-2016, 05:43 AM
jtur88 jtur88 is online now
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Are the people in question discontented, and do they desire change? I have had relatives that lived rather like that, and were perfectly contented with being left alone.

The fact that you are offended by the living conditions when you walk in the door does not necessary mean that the residents themselves want outsiders meddling in their lives. There is no reason to think that their personal safety is compromised beyond a trade-off for their sense that they are living pretty much as they choose, with the dignity that they have grown into.

It's like finding someone perfectly happy in their old clothes, and taking them to WalMart to outfit them in new duds.

Last edited by jtur88; 09-15-2016 at 05:45 AM.
  #9  
Old 09-15-2016, 08:32 AM
Rilchiam Rilchiam is offline
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Black mold is not something anyone should be contented with.
  #10  
Old 09-15-2016, 10:15 AM
Doctor Jackson Doctor Jackson is offline
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Start here. The Baltimore County Housing Code Enforcement agency will act on such reports:
Quote:
Report potential violations

To report potential housing and sanitation violations, please call 311 or use our online CitiTrack Service Request System.
You should be able to report a housing code violation from anywhere in the country via that link. Be prepared, however, for the potential family fallout when they learn you reported them.

Last edited by Doctor Jackson; 09-15-2016 at 10:16 AM.
  #11  
Old 09-15-2016, 06:39 PM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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Don't be surprised if whatever government agency is responsible for this isn't particularly well funded ... and the agency's response is underwhelming. Just because you disapprove of their lifestyle doesn't mean there's laws against it.

If you're that worried about it, you should move there and clean the mess up yourself ... if you don't think that's a possibility, then, well, maybe the problem isn't as bad as you've lead to believe ...
  #12  
Old 09-15-2016, 07:19 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
Don't be surprised if whatever government agency is responsible for this isn't particularly well funded ... and the agency's response is underwhelming. Just because you disapprove of their lifestyle doesn't mean there's laws against it.

If you're that worried about it, you should move there and clean the mess up yourself ... if you don't think that's a possibility, then, well, maybe the problem isn't as bad as you've lead to believe ...
At the very least they should go in and clean up the mold -- that's a serious health hazard.

Last edited by Guinastasia; 09-15-2016 at 07:19 PM.
  #13  
Old 09-15-2016, 07:29 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rilchiam View Post
Black mold is not something anyone should be contented with.
Just because the mold is black in color doesn't mean it's "black mold". You can only tell if it's the toxic kind by examining it under a microscope.
  #14  
Old 09-16-2016, 01:52 AM
jtur88 jtur88 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elfkin477 View Post
Just because the mold is black in color doesn't mean it's "black mold". You can only tell if it's the toxic kind by examining it under a microscope.
Thank you, I had tried to find a cite to respond to that, and I believe you are correct.
  #15  
Old 09-18-2016, 08:32 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
Thank you, I had tried to find a cite to respond to that, and I believe you are correct.
Here you go. http://moldmanusa.com/the-truth-abou...hat-you-think/

Toxic molds come in many colors too, so just because it's not black doesn't make it safe either. The inability to tell toxic mold from regular mold by looking is why there are so many mold testing labs.
  #16  
Old 09-20-2016, 01:31 AM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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!. Persuade your mother & brother to come visit you in Denver for a 2 week vacation.

2. Secretly arrange to have a hoarder-clean-up-company (like Sage Rat mentioned) come in and to clear out the home during those 2 weeks. They can put any questionable items that might be worth keeping into a storage container in the driveway. Those people are usually experienced at identifying what's worth keeping.

3. Hire a local house-cleaner in that area to come in once a week to clean the house, for the next 6 months or so. Explain the situation to them, and make it clear that you are the one paying them, and you expect to be kept informed of the state of the house, and notified immediately if any signs of hoarding begin reappearing.

This will cost you some money, but should clear up the problem.
Possibly you can persuade them ti pay for some of it, like the weekly housecleaner, once they get used to it.

Last edited by t-bonham@scc.net; 09-20-2016 at 01:32 AM.
  #17  
Old 09-20-2016, 02:32 AM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t-bonham@scc.net View Post
Secretly arrange to have a hoarder-clean-up-company (like Sage Rat mentioned) come in and to clear out the home during those 2 weeks.
Do not do this under any circumstances. This is theft and you can be criminally charged. You cannot have someone else's home cleared out just because you disapprove of it, even if you're totally correct in the belief that it's unhealthy.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 09-20-2016 at 02:35 AM.
  #18  
Old 09-20-2016, 06:56 PM
SpoilerVirgin SpoilerVirgin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Feldon View Post
Do not do this under any circumstances. This is theft and you can be criminally charged. You cannot have someone else's home cleared out just because you disapprove of it, even if you're totally correct in the belief that it's unhealthy.
The theft and criminal issues are just one part of it. Hoarding is a disease. People who have had family come in and clear out without their knowledge will at best just go back to hoarding. At worst, they can come completely unhinged and require hospitalization, or even commit suicide. Any responsible hoarding clean-up company will absolutely not participate in this type of clean-up. They will require active participation by the hoarder to ensure that any psychological issues are addressed.
  #19  
Old 09-20-2016, 07:58 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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I don't know the authorities in Maryland, but a friend was in a very similar situation with her mother and her brother in New Jersey (we're in Virginia). They were refusing to let closer relatives in the house, and were not maintaining good contact with my friend. The mother was a hoarder and was developing dementia; the brother was also a hoarder, living off a mental health disability check and mooching off his mother.

The friend called the local authorities who investigated and wound up condemning the house as unfit for habitation. Mother wound up being moved to near the friend (and ultimately into a nursing home, as the friend could NOT look after her 24/7), the brother was on the radar of social services but refused the living placement they found for him; he found his own cheap apartment from which he was eventually evicted for hoarding behavior. We have no idea what happened to him after that.
  #20  
Old 09-21-2016, 10:52 AM
flygirl2172 flygirl2172 is offline
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In response to your reply

Yes, I would never go in and even try to clean it up. One person would not be able. It would take a team of folks and my guess is that my brother would be unable to let go of anything. It must all have value to him. I do not want to steal anyone's possessions for fear of karma. Plus, it's just wrong to steal.
  #21  
Old 09-21-2016, 11:16 AM
Cardigan Cardigan is offline
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The mess is really a symptom of much deeper psychological issues. The DSM 5 has 'Hoarding Disorder' now listed as its own distinct diagnosis. The thing to understand is that you're not simply dealing with really bad housekeeping here and removing all the junk will not address the problem.

If you wish to help I recommend contacting mental health professionals and approach from that direction.

Last edited by Cardigan; 09-21-2016 at 11:18 AM.
  #22  
Old 09-21-2016, 11:25 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
...the problem isn't as bad as you've lead to believe ...
[my crusade]
Not lead (that's a metal), dangit, LED!
[the crusade thanks you]
  #23  
Old 09-21-2016, 11:27 AM
ivylass ivylass is offline
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What's the reason given why the government agencies will not help?
  #24  
Old 09-21-2016, 11:33 AM
filmore filmore is offline
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I'm sure this is traumatic for you, but first it would be probably beneficial for you to learn more about hoarders. It's a psychological problem, and like most similar problems, is not quickly or easily solved. Perhaps see if there are any hoarding resources in your area that you can contact to learn more and discuss what they would recommend in this situation.

Trying to get your brother to not be a hoarder will be a very long and difficult task with a low chance of success, especially if you are trying to force the change upon him. You could clean and fix everything, and within a month it would be back to the way it was.

Realistically, the only solution is for your mom is to not live with the brother. It sounds like she doesn't want to leave, but based on her living conditions you may be able to get her declared unfit and then be able to force the issue. What type of living situation could you provide her if she moved out?

Unfortunately, you probably have to realize the brother will not change and time spent on that effort will likely be wasted. If you want your mom to live in better conditions, you're going to have to remove her from that house and the brother.
  #25  
Old 09-21-2016, 11:43 AM
Me_Billy Me_Billy is offline
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You have done everything you can. She will not move to your home. NOTHING more you can do, so drop it and get on with your life.

(I've tried helping people before as well. Nothing more can be done than offering to help, suggesting counseling, suggesting they go to doctor, budget their money, or whatever would resolve their situation.)
  #26  
Old 09-22-2016, 09:43 AM
Whitney Harper Whitney Harper is offline
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How do you know this information, as you never mentioned that you had visited Maryland? It sounds as if your brother may be the caregiver for your mother, and he must be doing something right, if your mother is doing well for her age. I realize that you live in CO, but perhaps you could at least fly back to Maryland for a week-end and try to get a handle (complete picture) of the situation. I understand how you feel, but afterall if your brother is taking care of your mother, he most likely does your mom's grocery shopping, doctors' appointments, etc. Walk a mile in a caregiver's shoes; it's not an easy task.
  #27  
Old 09-22-2016, 11:52 AM
DCnDC DCnDC is offline
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I have a difficult time believing Social Services simply told you to pound sand. What exactly did they say, and what reason did they give for not helping?
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