Family Dynamics, Hoarding, and Caring for Dad


This week my sister and brother came to see dad.  It has been years since the 3 of us were in the same place at the same time.  My brother was here a year ago when we had the memorial picnic for mom.   My sister was still thousands of miles away.  She moved to just 60 miles away in December and visited dad twice since then.  Before today, I don’t know the last time my sister saw my brother – maybe many years.

Anyway brother drove 400 miles to visit dad and picked up sister on the way.  She doesn’t have a car.  They returned to her home city for the night and will return on Wednesday according to the plan.  I was and remain uncertain of how the rest of this visit will go.

It has been over a year since mom passed away.  My brother and I have had several arguments in the past year concerning his occupation of dad’s house without paying any rent or expenses.  Thus dad is supporting him to the tune of about $16,000 per year for taxes and insurance.  I want to sell that house now that dad can’t live there.  Dad needs the money to pay for his assisted living expenses.

My brother just wants to continue till the well runs dry and then turn the house over to Medicaid and let them pay for dad’s expenses.  There are many problems with that idea.  First of all, we wouldn’t get the value out of the house (over $500,000).  Second, Medicaid won’t pay for assisted living — only a nursing home.  Dad is doing better in assisted living than he did in the nursing home.  Why force him into a nursing home?  I certainly wouldn’t want to live there!

And lastly, if dad were to pass away after he lost the house, my sister and I would inherit much less since Medicaid keeps the cost of selling the house.  Since my Brother is a hoarder, it could cost a huge amount to just empty the house and prepare it to sell and then sell it.  We would get pennies on the dollar!  Thus my brother would get everything he wants – 5 years of free living or whatever, while I do all the work and inherit almost nothing.  Myy sister is financially needy and she would also stand to lose her share of whatever would have been left.

But forgetting any possible inheritance for the moment, I continue to worry about dad’s daily expenses and how I will continue to pay them.

And now, more about the hoarding.  My brother had asked what I wanted him to bring from the house.  I suggested he bring an afghan that mom had that my sister might want.  I also suggested 2 pictures mom and dad had in their house and 2 throw pillows I had given mom a few years ago as well as a couple of small rugs.

He brought those things, and also a box of out-of-date food from mom and dad’s pantry.  He asked if I wanted it.  I told him to throw it out.  “What am I going to do with out-of-date food?”  He said “No one ever died from eating out-of-date pudding”.  And I said “I have no room for it.  Throw it out”, and finally he did.

I asked my sister what she wanted from mom’s things.  Well, she said, “first I want the picture our brother just brought.  And the afghan he brought also.”  I showed her some of mom’s jewelry and she picked some pieces from that box also.  I brought out some of the pictures and my sister wanted to take them all home with her, review them and then bring them back.

I said no to that suggestion.  Remember, my sister is also a hoarder.  Once she “borrowed” half dozen pictures of one of my grandsons to copy and return to me.  Only she couldn’t find them and I never got them back.

Instead, I suggested we look through the pictures together.  I gave her the pictures of her daughters and her granddaughter that had been in my parent’s collection.  I reminded her that I plan to scan the old black and white pictures and would give her digital copies of those, but it might take awhile.

I am the mean one who makes the rules in this case.  But I have been burned before, so I have learned when to say no.  Some of the things my brother brought me (the rugs and pictures) may have value and I wanted to sell them to use the money for dad’s care.  I will still see if I can do that with the picture I kept and the rugs.  I just hope my sister hangs up the picture she took so it doesn’t end up as more clutter in her closets, etc.

I am ambivalent about what to give a hoarding sister.  I have a lot of things (my own) that I no longer use and would normally give to her.  But she had to “abandon” her previous home because it was so cluttered with “junk” that she couldn’t get it cleaned up.  Instead she had to move to low-income housing and essentially start all over again.  I gave her some of dad’s dining room chairs as she needs furniture.  But I also have crafts items that I haven’t had time to use.  I considered giving her those but so far restrained myself.

I don’t want to be responsible for having her build up another hoarding home.  I think she would be literally evicted from her low-income housing if she creates a hoarding home there.  On the one hand, I don’t want to feel like I am the one to decide what goes into her home.  But on the other hand, I don’t want to be responsible for adding things she hadn’t even asked for.

If anyone has suggestions on what I should give to a hoarding sister (or whether I should even take the hoarding into consideration at all!), please let me know.  I know my sister considers me the bossy older sister who tells her what to do.  For the most part, I’d rather not be a part of that.  But on the other hand, I don’t want to make things worse.

Tomorrow they will return for another visit with dad and will then visit me afterwards again.  The next day my brother will go back home to dad’s house.  I may write more about this later in the week.

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About letstalkaboutfamily

I am a retired and was the primary caregiver for both my parents before they passed. I have children and grandchildren. This blog is an attempt to connect with other caregivers and share ideas and experiences. I hope you will let me know what worked for you if you had an experience similar to mine. The main issues I am going to talk about are elder care, death and dying, assisted living, family relationships and hoarders and hoarding. Other topics will come up as I address the issues and my relationship with other family members.
This entry was posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Assisted Living Facility, Caregiving, Elder Care, Eldercare, Family, Hoarders, Hoarding and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Family Dynamics, Hoarding, and Caring for Dad

  1. terry1954 says:

    i know the position that you hold as i also had to do this. we had a meeting, everyone in the family attending. each were allowed so many items from the house. we all walked through and each took what they wanted. after that, it was up to me to decide what to do with everything else. i had a title by law though that allowed me to do this. do you? otherwise, it may get out of hand and u may not be able to do as you wish at all times. just know whatever happens i understand all of your feelings and concerns

  2. Thanks, Terry. You are right. I am executor for both mom and dad, and power of attorney for dad as well (and was for mom), so legally I am in an OK place. My brother didn’t want POA because of the work involved as he is always too busy. Still, it can get dicy when there is a disagreement, I would rather work things out together but they rarely even contact me so usually I have to make decisions on my own based on what is best for dad. Technically all the “stuff” belongs to dad now but he is no longer interested in it. I want to sell what I can to pay for his assisted living expenses and other expenses.

  3. Teresa Cleveland Wendel says:

    I think Terry’s suggestion is a good one. I was so blessed when I took care of my cousin–no squabbles over his few possessions. I made a display at his memorial service and everyone took something that held meaning for them. Such cooperation, unfortunately, isn’t the norm. I’m sorry for anyone in your position. Somebody has to be the bad guy, and it’s usually the one who does all the work.

  4. Yes, I agree. Last year at mom’s memorial picnic, I had everyone pick out one piece of jewelry or something else to keep to remember mom. My sister’s daughter was here at that time and took one piece for her mother as well. Yesterday she got some more. After I take the rest for appraisal, I will sell what I can and let sister and my daughters choose from the rest. I don’t wear much jewelry myself. Funny thing is mom didn’t wear that much either except for some inexpensive beads, but somehow she accumulated a lot from dad’s treasure hunting and maybe inherited from her sisters. I just want to get the best value from what is left and give away the rest. I don’t have that much room to just store stuff.

  5. Gary says:

    Well, just reading this made my head spin and my stomach go sour. Bless you. You seem bent on crossing your fingers to get through it and keep the peace. I hope that works. How long has your brother been in dad’s house? My first inclination, would be to move you aside, get the Sheriff Civil Deputy and boot his selfish ass out! But, he has probably been there over 3 months and has some BS standing. You are an angel. Are there legal recourses for you if dad’s care was viewed as superior to the freeloader? If so, the clock is ticking. If not, does the brother have a conscience? No huh?

    • Gary, You are right of course. If this were someone else, I would have plenty of suggestions for them too. Brother has been living with mom and dad for about 30 years. His hoarding was driving poor mom to distraction! I am waiting for 2 reasons. First, I did want to just work things out for family peace. Then as the financial issues took front and center I called my lawyer and she talked to others in her office who have more experience with the issues of throwing brother out. She concluded by saying it all depended on the judge. I could spend a fortune and gain nothing because some judge could decide it is a sibling dispute! He has been living there so long that might help his case, even though he hasn’t paid any rent the entire time. Brother has vowed to fight with every penny he has to prevent me from evicting him. This could get ugly and costly.

      Fortunately, the actual will says that I am executor and when dad is gone the house is to be sold and the proceeds distributed among the heirs. However, I want to prevent dad from running out of money and that will be difficult, especially if he ends up back in the nursing home. My lawyer said she would proceed with eviction if I want her to, but it could cost all his money with no gain. Also, the house is 400 miles away, so it would be difficult to do long distance working with their local sheriff and then a real estate agent to sell the house!

      And no, brother has no conscience. He is obsessive/compulsive as most hoarders are. He finally conceeded that he “agreed in principle” that he should be paying towards the taxes and insurance, but since he has no money, he can’t! I do spend a lot of time and energy just being frustrated about this!

  6. Pingback: Hoardings Woes: Read This…Can You Feel It? « HoardingWoes & You

  7. Miss M says:

    very sorry about this, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I cannot even imagine.

  8. kellidd says:

    I am very sensitive to your plight and may I, as a newcomer, offer a suggestion? The most independent dwelling where your dad can maintain his own health and safety are the best place for him and the courts would uphold that. You apparently need the money from the sale of the home to pay his assisted living expenses but brother’s presence is preventing it. You have a couple of options – none of which will make you popular with your siblings but will assure your dad’s continuum of care. I don’t know what state you live in but I can offer an overview of information that is generally accepted in all states. If your dad’s money is dwindling and your brother refuses to move from the home you could enlist the support of Adult Protective Services who would more than likely name a guardian ad litem for your dad. This is a person who advocates only for him. If they say the house must be sold for your dad’s best interest and a judge so orders – it will be sold and the money (I assume your POA extends to finances) would be put in an account you had power over to pay for his needs including the assisted living facility. You and your siblings would more than likely have to forego your inheritance for his care though. If dad goes to the nursing home, he can get Medicaid if the home is not sold but only IF the son living in the home is disabled (deemed by social security) and then when your brother vacates the premises or passes away, the home would indeed be sold and the money given to the state to reimburse for your dad’s stay at the nursing home and any leftover would be given to heirs of the estate. However, if he goes to the nursing home and the brother is not disabled but refuses to leave the home, the Nursing home itself would contact Adult Protective Services (because they want payment) and without a doubt they would get a judge to evict your brother AND because of his hoarding issues he might have them in his business for much longer than he would prefer. I took care of my dad until his death and now caregive my mother. Sometimes its hard to do it all, but then I see what stress and pressure you are under and I thank God I am an only child. My thoughts are with you.

    • Thank you for your analysis of our situation. Brother is not disabled. He is employed and has an income greater than dad’s and mine combined. He just spends faster than he earns. His hoarding I think also keeps him from being able to move. It is just too daunting to proceed. He would procrastinate forever if he could.

      I considered adult protective services in the past but thought they would not consider helping since dad is safe in an assisted living facility at this time. The house is 400 miles from here but in the same state. I could call the local APS in that area and find out what they would do. Would that be more likely to succeed than APS here where dad currently lives?

      I did call APS several years ago because I thought my brother was bullying my parents but mom insisted I not proceed because she needed him to drive her to her doctors and to the store. Now mom passed away over a year ago and dad is not in the house, so circumstances have changed.

      Thanks so much for your analysis. I sill pursue the issue with APS. I do not think brother is entitled to stay in the house RE Medicaid as he is not disabled and he was not helpful in keeping my parents from having to move to assisted living or a nursing home.

      • kellidd says:

        We often see loving parents who are willing to endure just about anything to keep things at a status quo – like your mom. Bless her heart. It’s so painful to watch and yet as you contemplate your own mortality, you recognize that you might ignore your own child’s shortcomings if they would just keep taking you to the dr. when you no longer could. I’m only guessing how much the assisted living costs but I would wait till dad was down to about $10K which should be about5 months costs and then I would call the APS in the county where your dad is now residing. They will co-ordinate with the worker needed in the county where dad’s house is – but get both people’s names and phone numbers. You could get 2 great workers or a good one in the first county and a lousy one in the other….generally not, but sometimes it happens. They will work with you – because honestly (and I don’t mean to hurt your feelings or be disrespectful) but the information you are giving seems to meet the legal requirement to say that your brother is exploiting your dad’s situation. It is criminal. I am by no means a subject matter expert in APS, but I do work with them often when trying to keep a client in their own home instead of going to a nursing home. Seniors have a Bill of Right resolutions by the House of Reps of the United States and it states in part….

        1.Financial security,
        2.Quality and affordable health and long-term care,
        3.Protection from abuse, scams, and exploitation,
        4.A strong economy now and for future generations, and
        5.Safe and livable communities with adequate housing and transportation options.

        Your brother should be made aware of this and the fact that a judge in your state could find criminal charges against him if he doesn’t get his butt in gear and grow up! If you ever have any questions, please feel free to find me on the blog. Kelli

  9. I agree that my brother is expliting my dad and has for a long time. The complicating factor here is that dad doesn’t live at home. Therefore when I called about it in the past there was no urgency to do anything about it as dad is already protected in his assisted living facility. For many, including my lawyer, the simple solution seems to be to just let dad run out of money and then let Medicaid take the house and pay for dad’s care. I don’t accept that as a solution for the reasons I stated above.

    Dad’s ALF costs over $4000 per month, which is pretty standard around here. (It was about $3200 when he was in the south but that was an older building in a lower cost area.) However, a nursing home would cost $11,000 per month, and that would run through money much faster.

    I will follow up with APS ad dad’s resources diminsh, but I did ask the Eldersource lady about this last fall and she felt it would require legal action on our part to get my brother out. There are no easy solutions, so I just keep doing what I can one step at a time.

    Thanks for your input.

  10. Pingback: My Siblings Visit with Dad: Part 2 | Let's Talk About Family

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