Daugh­ter wants to clean up af­ter messy mom

Enterprise-Record (Chico) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - Amy Dick­in­son

DEAR AMY » My Mom is 90-years-old and has had a hoard­ing/messy home prob­lem, gam­bling ad­dic­tion, and money is­sues for the past 25 years.

She is a com­pul­sive shop­per and was shop­ping al­most every day when she was driv­ing. Last year she had a mi­nor car ac­ci­dent that to­taled her car, so she does not drive any­more and de­pends on me to take her for gro­ceries, er­rands, doc­tor ap­point­ments, etc.

I had to clean out her car, which was so full of stuff that it took me five hours to clean it out. I filled five large garbage bags of trash and 12 boxes of stuff.

I have had to “clean up her mess” many times over the years, some­times at my in­sis­tence, and some­times be­cause she needs to let some­one into her apart­ment and they can’t get in be­cause of the mess. Clothes are piled on the bed, gro­ceries on the coun­ters, and boxes on the floor.

My daugh­ter, who has helped me clean in the past, has very good or­ga­ni­za­tional skills and works quickly. She has agreed to help me this week­end. (I have a sis­ter who lives lo­cally but isn’t very help­ful.)

In the past, Mom has told me that my clean­ing makes her anx­ious.

Should I in­sist she let us do this? Mom’s apart­ment makes me sick and I feel so over­whelmed when I am there be­cause it is so bad. I have trou­ble sleep­ing be­cause it both­ers me so much.

I have tried to get her coun­sel­ing help in the past, but she only went to a few ses­sions.

If I clean now, it would be on my terms, but if I don’t force it now and some­thing comes up with her apart­ment or health, I would be forced to clean it im­me­di­ately.

She pro­cras­ti­nates un­til things be­come ur­gent with her; then she makes me deal with this ur­gency.

I want to honor my mother and also be the re­spon­si­ble daugh­ter. Any ad­vice?

— Lov­ing Daugh­ter

DEAR DAUGH­TER » At the age of 90, your mother is prob­a­bly not go­ing to make dra­matic steps to change. She might not be phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally able to deal with her hoard­ing dis­or­der in any truly sub­stan­tial way. (Hoard­ing seems to be re­lated to anx­i­ety, and — longer-term — you should ask her pri­mary care physi­cian about ap­pro­pri­ate anti-anx­i­ety med­i­ca­tion that might help.)

Be­cause you seem to be her pri­mary care­taker, I sug­gest that you take this on — on your terms.

Ask your sis­ter if she can take your mother on er­rands/out­ings for the day. Tell your mom that you and her grand­daugh­ter are go­ing to han­dle this for her, and re­as­sure her that when she re­turns, her home will be much eas­ier for her to nav­i­gate. If your mother isn’t in the space and is in­stead dis­tracted dur­ing the day, she might feel less anx­ious.

You can email Amy Dick­in­son at askamy@ amy­dick­in­son.com or send a let­ter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also fol­low her on Twitter @ ask­ingamy or Face­book.

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