Question: My elderly mother’s house was condemned (hoarding and vermin infestation). She refuses medical treatment or other help. Although we tried to help her, she is now not speaking to us, tells people we have stolen “everything” (which not true). Her health is bad. She is nearly blind from cataracts, but she is very articulate, intelligent and manipulative. How can we get her into treatment and/or keep her from returning to an unhealthy living situation? Also, our 15-year-old son’s room reminds me of my mother’s house (piles of junk and a pathway.) Could he have OCD hoarding?
Answer 1: Hoarding problems are often entangled with family struggles and your description of the problem is not unusual. There is little you can do that your mother will agree to and you may end up having to pursue a legal solution. On her own it is most likely that her home would return to its previous state reasonably quickly. Given that the conditions got so bad that her house was condemned it may be possible to get some sort of guardianship which would empower you to control her living situation. It might be necessary to place her in some other arrangement as living at home is unlikely to work at all especially since she is accusing you of stealing her stuff and sounds like she has little or no insight into the problem. Hoarding is a difficult problem to treat in part because unlike other compulsions hoarding often serves to successfully manage anxiety. Your son’s situation may also represent a form of hoarding OCD but it is impossible to diagnose without much more information. Continued near the bottom of this page.
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Answer 2: There is no simple recipe for getting someone to treatment when they do not want to go. There are, however, some things you can do, but it is not something that can be outlined easily in this small space. In addition, some family members confronted with this problem have benefited from professional consultation.