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November 09, 2006


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I have a mom who lives 4 hours away and has become a hoarder of everything. I am her only surviving child and I dont know what to do. Her house is getting terrible and unhealthy as far as dust and her toilet is having problems but she wont let anyone in to fix it. I dont know what to do. I dont want to force her to do things. I tell her she needs to have one come in to fix it. She gets on the defense. Should I talk to her primary doctor about this? She is depressed but says she isnt. Thank u for any info. Luav

Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed.

Luav, it is very challenging to try and help family members with this issue. You could try to talk to her primary doctor, but don't expect much as they are not trained to deal with this sort of issue. Dealing with people who hoard is a lot like dealing with an addict..you hate to see people hurting themselves, yet you also can't force them to change. They only resist more. Supporting her and encouraging her and asking her what she wants (you don't have to give her everything she asks for, but just listening without judging or trying to change is often better. Sometimes you you have to "get on their page" with them before they will let walls down and listen to your point of view. For example I find that often the best way to get me to do something is to tell me I don't have to do it or better yet, tell me "it can't be done" I tend to start challenging that and before you know it, I WANT to do it.

I believe that hoarding is a "coping" mechanism...not a healthy one but that is the intent...so what is she coping with? Find that out and you may be able to start helping her. What is her pain that she is comforting with all that stuff?

Hoarding may not be the best coping mechanism in the world...but in it's own way it is quite brilliant and creative. There is a kind of logic to it that actually is true...the issue is that the creativity and logic is "unbounded"

When people recover from hoarding behavior it is partly because they have learned to embrace the power of limits and boundaries - but they have to feel like THEY SET THE limits...if they limits are forced or pushed on them...they will rebel.

I hope this helps you in some way... : )

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