Ask Amy: Daughter wants to clean up after messy mom

July 12 at 12:00 AM

Dear Amy: My Mom is 90-years-old and has had a hoarding/messy home problem, gambling addiction and money issues for the past 25 years.

She is a compulsive shopper and was shopping almost every day when she was driving. Last year she had a minor car accident that totaled her car, so she does not drive anymore and depends on me to take her for groceries, errands, doctor appointments, etc.

I had to clean out her car, which was so full of stuff that it took me five hours to clean. I filled five large garbage bags of trash and 12 boxes of stuff.

I have had to “clean up her mess” many times over the years, sometimes at my insistence, and sometimes because she needs to let someone into her apartment and they can’t get in because of the mess. Clothes are piled on the bed, groceries on the counters and boxes on the floor.

My daughter, who has helped me clean in the past, has very good organizational skills and works quickly. She has agreed to help me this weekend. (I have a sister who lives locally but isn’t very helpful.)

In the past, Mom has told me that my cleaning makes her anxious.

Should I insist she let us do this? Mom’s apartment makes me sick, and I feel so overwhelmed when I am there because it is so bad. I have trouble sleeping because it bothers me so much.

I have tried to get her counseling in the past, but she went to only a few sessions.

If I clean now, it would be on my terms. If I don’t force it now and something comes up with her apartment or health, I would be forced to clean it immediately.

She procrastinates until things become urgent; then she makes me deal with this urgency.

I want to honor my mother and also be the responsible daughter. Any advice?

— Loving Daughter

Loving Daughter: At the age of 90, your mother is probably not going to make dramatic steps to change. She might not be physically and emotionally able to deal with her hoarding disorder in any substantial way. (Hoarding seems to be related to anxiety, and — longer-term — you should ask her primary care physician about appropriate anti-anxiety medication that might help.)

Because you seem to be her primary caretaker, I suggest that you take this on — on your terms.

Ask your sister if she can take your mother on errands/outings for the day. Tell your mom that you and her granddaughter are going to handle this for her, and reassure her that when she returns, her home will be much easier for her to navigate. If your mother isn’t in the space and is instead distracted during the day, she might feel less anxious.

Dear Amy: In the past two years, I have given monetary gifts for graduations, birthdays, a bridal shower and a wedding.

I have not received any acknowledgment or thanks for these gifts.

At this point, I would settle for two words in a text message: “Thank you.”

Do young people feel so entitled that acknowledging a gift is not necessary?

One of the recipients is now pregnant and her mother-in-law is throwing a baby shower.

Of course, I’ll be invited. I don’t want to go.

Friends have told me that I am being petty. Am I?

— Petty in Maryland

Petty in Maryland: You don’t seem petty, as much as worn out. And I don’t blame you. A natural consequence of this lack of appreciation is that you will be less inspired to keep giving.

My only caution here is that baby showers are intended as celebrations centered on a new baby, who is obviously innocent.

I think it is also time to contact the recipients of these gifts to tell them, “I believe I’ve been generous to you, and I’ve always been happy to celebrate your milestones with gifts. But you have never acknowledged or thanked me for a gift. I’m not sure why this is, but it is quite discouraging.”

Dear Amy:Tom, in Los Angeles” expressed extreme distress in where this country is headed. I have to say, I was shocked (pleasantly) by your response. Your first line got me: “I think you should celebrate the freedom we each have to either launch an insurrection, or go to the movies.”

— A Fan

Fan: Thank you. I’m a huge movie buff — but I also love a good insurrection. Onward!

2020 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency