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My Favorite Uncle

Sunday, April 10, 2016

I finally had to admit to myself that my only (and favorite) surviving Uncle is a hoarder. He is not as bad as those you may have seen on T.V., but bad enough.

He has been asking me to come help him for a while. Several years back when his wife passed, I helped him clear out her things and log all of her jewelry items for future sale. It took me a month of constant working.

My Uncle wants help, but he wants it on his own terms. When I tell him I have certain days free to help him, he says he has plans and I will have to help him at his convenience. I try to do what I can.

I told him I would help him on Saturday. I asked him to call me when he finished breakfast with his group of friends at a local restaurant. He called later and wanted to know why I wasn't already at his house. emoticon He then said he was going to the bank and would be back in thirty minutes. If I had already been there, he would have left me at his house to work by myself while he was gone to the bank. (yes, he has done this before). I did express to him that if he had done that to me again, I would have left.

I tried to explain to him, that everything in his house, need to have a home. Everything needs a place where it should be. ("Organized Life and Time Management team" a great help by the way.)

Every time I moved something, he would put it right back and then add more to it. When I tried to throw away a coffee stirrer from a restaurant, he insisted that he might use it later. I told him he had spoons for that. The stirrer is still there.

I did manage to get about 1/3 of his counter cleaned off, so that he could sit and eat there if he wanted. I know he doesn't cook anymore, because his stove is full of "stuff."

My favorite Uncle is 89 years old and will be 90 in October. He is an Ex-Army weapons expert. It is sad to see him so disorganized. I know that with his military background, he had to be organized at a moments notice when he was an officer. He still has that stubborn military way about him.

Even though I have my own mess here at my house and I am in constant pain, I still wanted to go help my Uncle. I thought to myself, 'he won't be here forever.' I will go there again, and I will do what I can to make a "dent" in the "stuff." And, I will enjoy the time spent with my Uncle.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    What a tough position to be in. My mother in law is the same. She admits she has a problem and needs to clean out the house and get rid of stuff. Then we fly out for a visit and try to help, because she asked, she didn't want to get rid of anything. "i'll use that soon," Two weeks later, no dent made.

    This is going to be hard no matter what you decide. Maybe the more you are around, the more he'll listen, as in, don't make it a one day process but instead, pick a day once a week, just a few hours to talk, listen and allow him to release. You might make a breakthrough. I wish you the very best of luck no matter what you decide to do. Sending hugs!
    1783 days ago
    Brenda, this is a tough one... for you & him. The problem is... you either help now or help after he's gone.
    Last year, when Mom passed, both my Sis & I were shocked, by the hoarding. The reason we were shocked.... because she was neat & organized. I know I blogged about it.
    A 1 bedroom condo (add)+ 28 years.....the 1st trip to GW was 15 bags of clothes & we barely made a dent. THEN... the Y2K stash of canned goods....mostly exploded cans. We were lucky there weren't any bugs or rodents.
    You get the picture.
    I know it's exhausting, just thinking about it. Maybe just schedule a visit time, twice per month... if you can handle it. Don't discuss organizing with him. Just do a little tidying up, on each visit. If you leave with 1 bag of trash, each time... it should be less traumatic for each of you.
    Hugs & Prayers
    emoticon emoticon
    1783 days ago
    Wonderful that you are there to help
    1785 days ago
    Enjoy the time with him. It's so hard to part with some things but a little bit means a lot.
    1785 days ago
    It's difficult to let go of "stuff" or "things". Maybe your uncle just wants the pleasure of your company and asking for your help is a way to get it. It's a blessing he still gets to choose. emoticon
    1785 days ago
    I agree with Kren above, enjoy the time you are spending with him. Perhaps he is asking for your help just so you will visit more. I know my own mother had a difficult time throwing away stuff, it was the time period they were raised in. Keep that in mind too
    1785 days ago
    I'm having this problem with my mom (75 and a hoarder-in-training). She has asked for help cleaning out and organizing and I told her I would be glad to but only if she is willing to get rid of stuff. I'm not going to try and organize all the stuff she has in every available space, things she does not need, outdated canned food, etc. She said she would, we'll see.
    1786 days ago
    Dementia can take many forms besides Alzheimer's. It sounds as though this may be happening to your uncle. Hoarding is not a character flaw; it is the result of some other form of medical problem with the brain. Getting him to a doctor for an evaluation might or might not be feasible. In the meantime it may be time to compassionately stop thinking of him as a rational human being you can reason with. Your logic may not be registering with him and his behavior may be a result of that physical malfunction. As he is nearly 90 years of age this would not be unusual. So here are 2 thoughts - take them or toss them, whatever works for you.

    1. Try to get whatever family member who is responsible for him to pay attention to what is going on and get him to a doctor and other services as needed. If there are no family members left, try talking to a local group or person who deals in Senior Issues to get help. With this kind of hoarding and lack of touch with reality he could be - or become - a real danger to himself in any of dozens of ways. This is not insulting him: it is recognizing the reality of his life and trying to help him.

    2. For the sake of your own sanity, stop setting expectations for logical responses and behavior from him. You only set yourself up for frustration. If you want to go through the motions of trying to clean out his house - even a counter or table top, just to make a small dent in the stuff, then do so. At the same time, recognize that he can't really make those decisions you are looking for and is not capable of helping you help him.

    Also, while you are in this process expect that you may start to grieve for the uncle you knew who is no longer the same person. And remind yourself that you are acting in the best ways you can to support and love him through what has to be a difficult and confusing process for him as well. When we do this we teenagers we call it "Tough Love." Your uncle may not be a teenager but helping him through this will require a similar blend of compassion and strength on your part. Blessings and best wishes as you deal with this situation.
    1786 days ago
  • --KREN
    Look on it as time spent with your uncle and don't worry about making any real progress. You can see it's not going to happen, lol.

    1786 days ago
    Take tiny steps you don't want to ruin the relationship .tiny steps
    1786 days ago
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