How Do I Get Dad Out of His Cluttered, Unsafe Home?
People want to stay in their own homes. You hear it and read about it all the time. And there’s some merit to that. Most of us can relate to the fact that relocating is emotionally charged. Add the fact that our parents get sick and tired of suffering the indignities of aging and often feel bossed around by everyone from the government to their kids, and you can understand why they often get stubborn. Where they live may be, in their minds, their “last stand.”
Many elders do well in their homes. They graciously accept the help they need, have cleaning people come in, and are even able to throw away the old newspapers that are piling up in the corner. They are content with adding some safety measures and feel cozy with a bit of clutter.
Then there’s the other side. Many seniors are living in the same home they raised their children in. These homes are modest, but worked well for raising their family and even for the early empty nest years. Often, however, they are two-story cottages, with the bedrooms and the only bathroom up a long flight of stairs. They have small closets and full basements, generally stuffed to the rafters with things they’ve forgotten but feel they can’t live without.
After four or five decades in this small home, the place is packed with memories as well as junk. Then, one spouse – let’s say Mom – dies. Dad is now alone in this house. He gets even more “thrifty,” and doesn’t want anyone coming to mow the yard. He’s a bit paranoid, and doesn’t want to pay a housekeeper, so the place is filthy. Electrical outlets are old and overloaded. Plumbing barely works and doesn’t get fixed. You try to help and he just gets more stubborn. He thinks you are trying to take over and guards his territory like a homesteader on the plains.
Newspapers and magazines pile up (generally unread). Food spoils in the fridge. But the worst of it is he is soiling his pants because he can’t get up the stairs to the bathroom on time.
You and your siblings have a conference and decide to intervene. You research assisted living centers and offer to take him around for a tour. You tell him you are afraid he will fall going up and down the steps in a hurry. You nag him to move for his safety. You dangle pretty brochures about assisted living in his face. He just gets more stubborn. What do you do? I’ve known some people who have had to call Social Services, have them do a welfare check, and let them take over the task of getting an elder out of a cluttered, filthy, unsafe home.
Alternatives to Assisted Living: Before going that far, I’d suggest that you try a couple of gentler things. First, get Dad to his doctor. You may have to go under the guise of a blood pressure check or something of the kind, but let the doctor know ahead that you are wondering about depression. Depression is often part of the problem, especially if a spouse has died. Depression also can cause people…
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