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My friend is a hoarder, and it's getting dangerous

(21 Posts)
ClareAB Wed 27-Jan-21 16:59:36


Hope everyone is staying safe, and as sane as it's possible to be in this crazy world.

My dearest friend, my 'ride or die' soul sister is in a really awful place in her life, and I am sitting here, in despair.

A little background. We have been friends for over 30 years, though all the ups and downs of life together, deaths, divorces, ill health.. you get the picture. She is genuinely one of the best people I know. Eg, in spite of what's happening below she is caring for her elderly neighbor who lost her husband 3 years ago. Daily, plus shopping etc.

She works from home. 12 years ago she was a fitness freak, endless energy. Then her thyroid went haywire and over the last years she has become a lot heavier, which is not helping her knees, hips and back. The fact that she is spending hours sitting at a computer has given her neck problems.

She has no energy at all, is depressed and anxious and has become nocturnal. Her work are worried and have given her the whole of january off.

Her house is so bad that she won't let me or her family in. She has been sleeping on a couch for 2+ years as she can't get to her bed. Her kitchen is stacked with old take away cartons, dirty crockery, empty tins. She has had several fly infestations and has now told me she thinks she has rats.

She has no running water in the kitchen and is too embarrassed to call a plumber because of the state of her house.

There's some OCD mixed in with this. For example months ago I went in and washed, under strict instructions, all the recycling. 3 bin bags full. She recently told me that she had been so worried that I hadn't done it properly, she had stashed it all away 'somewhere' to do later, and of course never has.

She has recently had 2 falls, one where she bruised the whole side of her body, the other she has hurt her leg and back. She also fainted last week.

I have spent months talking to her every day gently, knowing that this is a mental health issue and barging in and trying to take control would not be a good thing to do to her.

She is now openly talking about being a hoarder, having OCD and actually asked for me to recommend a therapist (I'm retired CPN) But taking her time over making the call.

The day before yesterday she rang me to tell me that she had written an e-consult email to her docs and asked for blood tests for thyroid (about 18mths overdue) and said about her hoarding, OCD, anxiety etc.
The doc had written straight back, arranged for her to go to the surgery early afternoon the next day (yesterday) for a full set of blood tests. He said he would call her in a few days when the results came in, He also arranged for the surgeries Mental Health Nurse to call her yesterday.

My friend was not happy. She wanted a chance to talk, explain to the doc. I spent much time calming her down and helping her to see that the doc was right. Best practice is to rule out any physical conditions that might be bringing her so low. Plus MH Nurse would be calling and my friend could talk to her..

So yesterday evening I called her to ask how it had all gone. She told me she hadn't made it to the blood test as having a bad nights sleep, she slept through the 2.00pm appointment. She had also missed the call from the nurse and hadn't listened to the message the nurse left.

And something in me just gave way. I don't know what to do. I feel she's at risk due to the amount of stuff , the falls, the lack of monitoring her thyroid, the infestations, her mental health...

I got a little tough with her last night over many hours of whatsapp. She kept telling me to drop it, she was tired. I said that might be a reason, but no excuse for not looking after herself a teeny bit. IE go get the blood test.. I offered to take her. That I loved her, and trusted her with anything except her promises to look after herself, that I was tired of listening to the same mantras for years, whilst watching her deteriorate...

I know there is a few of us who love her dearly and are worried. We have never got together to discuss it. I'm wondering if a form of intervention might help, or shatter what's left of her dignity.

I'm pretty sure she is hurt and upset from my kind of tough love last night. I have no idea whether it was the right thing to do or not.
when does support become enabling?

I'd really appreciate some advice, from people who have issues hoarding, people who have lived with, loved, known great friends with these issues. Professionals...

If you've read this far thank you for taking the trouble.

B9exchange Wed 27-Jan-21 17:13:14

I am really sorry, I have no experience to offer, but didn't want to read and run. You are a wonderful friend, you have tried everything it seems, and maybe thinking about what you said last might might just make her reconsider. If she won't have the blood test, she is not going to take even a small step towards getting better, but I do know thyroid problems can make you depressed and slow you down in so many ways. Will be thinking of you both. flowers

Patsy70 Wed 27-Jan-21 17:27:38

What a dreadful situation ClareAB. I regret I am unable to offer you professional advice, although I am sure there will be someone here who can help in some way. Your friend desperately needs medical treatment, possibly somewhere residential, and I do hope she realises this. Maybe you and her family can co-ordinate with the GP and MHN a way forward. Best wishes for a positive outcome.

welbeck Wed 27-Jan-21 17:39:24

i know it's tricky but could you ask to speak to her GP/ the practice nurse and tell them your concerns.
at least in general terms.
obviously they cannot discuss a patient with you, but if you simply talk at them, tell them why you are worried. or you could write to them.
i know it might seem like betraying her trust, but in such a situation, would it really be wrong.

NellG Wed 27-Jan-21 17:44:21

How I wish we all had friends who are as caring and supportive as you - your friend is very lucky.

But it doesn't help or change the fact that if she doesn't want to face these problems there's not much you can do to make her. I think if you're worried about her safety then perhaps you could contact her GP, or the MH nurse and express your concerns. You'll know that they wont be able to discuss her, but they can listen to you. As you were a CPN you'll also know that friends and family are an invaluable resource when you need to know what's really going on with people. All you can do is your best and it certainly seems you're doing that. Best wishes with it.

Jaxjacky Wed 27-Jan-21 17:49:35

Maybe contact adult social services, this is a person at risk, as you said, they can work with her GP and MHN.

EllanVannin Wed 27-Jan-21 17:58:22

As Jaxjacky said about contacting adult social services as the poor woman sounds as though she's severely depressed. The Mental Health Team would also be contacted via her GP. The sooner her condition can be stabilised the better.

PippaZ Wed 27-Jan-21 18:15:46

Goodness poor you Clare, and poor friend. I think you can only do one thing at a time and that seems to be to get her blood tests done. I just wonder how that could be done?

Working on the fact that she will not go until she can go and that may be never, I agree with others that some intervention may be needed. I also agree that means conveying the level of your concern to her practice which probably means talking to her GP and just asking her/him to listen.

Meanwhile be kind to yourself and keep being a frequent friend. We could all do with one like you. flowers

Tea3 Wed 27-Jan-21 18:21:05

Very sadly, concerned close friends and family are often frustrated in any attempt to help a hoarder. Your friend needs professional help as other have said above. I had a hoarder aunt who managed to literally fill to the rafters a five bedroom house, and I’ve a friend who is very worried about her hoarder sister. It is an illness that needs treatment.

PollyDolly Wed 27-Jan-21 18:30:16

ClareAB, I have sent a private message.

sodapop Wed 27-Jan-21 19:19:09

I agree with NellG pass your concerns on to her GP/practice nurse and ask them to help as a matter of urgency. Your friend is lucky to have you in her corner Clare
Sometimes all you can do is to be there to listen and be supportive, professional input is needed now. Don't let it all get to you either there is only so much you can do when your friend is so ill.

Hithere Wed 27-Jan-21 19:38:04

Interventions on these cases can backfire.

You want the best for her but she most probably won't see it that way

I see two options:
1. See what effects of the intervention has in your friendship
2. Continue the friendship while setting up boundaries how much you get involved

Hithere Wed 27-Jan-21 19:38:22

In these.....

Nonogran Wed 27-Jan-21 19:46:45

Sounds like Adult Social Services might be helpful here. If they can't help they might put you in touch with those who can. From your perspective, just talking to them might ease your state of mind too?
I have a hoarding friend of 35 years but not quite as bad as your friend. It's not easy ...

Nannarose Wed 27-Jan-21 21:43:03

Some of these replies are suggesting how we might handle this in the UK, but your post sounds as if you are elsewhere, possibly the US? It is difficult to know how systems might work.
Having said that, I agree with Nonogran that talking to a health / social / mental health specialist might be helpful, and ask them to support and advise you whilst trying to help your friend. Recognise that whatever else is going on, you need support.

This may not help, especially at present (I don't know what Covid rules are in place where you live) but this was an intervention that helped in a case I had:
The 'hoarder' was invited to stay with a family member, where she could care for herself properly without worrying about the mess. Friends asked what they could tackle and slowly did some work in the house, inviting the 'hoarder' to come and see and advise. Within a couple of weeks she was joining them in clearing up and went home soon after.

I wish you luck and join with those who are saying what a good friend you are.

ClareAB Thu 28-Jan-21 10:37:55

Thank you very much everyone who took the time and trouble to respond.
One of the most difficult things is not being able to talk about it to others without feeling that I am betraying or being disloyal. We live in a small community.
I think perhaps the best way forward is to have a discussion with the MH nurse at her docs practice.
I'm reluctant to call Social Servives as they are swamped at the moment (as always) and my friend is only 57, so not elderly....

Hetty58 Thu 28-Jan-21 10:46:14

I do wonder where your small community is?

This phrase stuck me as odd:

'she won't let me or her family in'

So, obviously, you're not in the UK under lockdown. How can we help if we don't know where you are?

mercedez Thu 28-Jan-21 11:25:21

As many have said you are a true friend sticking by her despite her not making any effort herself. We have a friend who lives on his boat in France and believes he has been watched, followed and monitored by the police, army and tax inspectors as he mistakenly thinks he owes the tax man 40 years of back tax. We arranged for a French Tax Lawyer to speak to him and he has seen a psychiatrist once but he thinks they are conspiring against him. He says he has no future, will lose everything and will not survive. A psychologist who treated him years ago for another issue, said it’s ok to be firm with him but he will have to reach rock bottom before he concedes he needs help. Don’t feel bad about being firm and don’t feel bad yourself, she knows you are there for her.

ClareAB Thu 28-Jan-21 14:14:56


I do wonder where your small community is?

This phrase stuck me as odd:

'she won't let me or her family in'

So, obviously, you're not in the UK under lockdown. How can we help if we don't know where you are?

We do live in the UK. This has been going on from pre-lockdown.
As a single household she is part of my bubble. The only member as son and family are staying away cos of my husbands vulnerability.
My friend will come and visit me, socially distanced, usually outside with many coats on. And can behave as though everything is fine.
Just had a chat with her for over an hour. She's completely in denial today. Thinks it's all down to menopause .
At least she has been for a blood test today. It's a start...

welbeck Thu 28-Jan-21 16:08:21

i didn't doubt that you were in uk, and that your involvement with this lady is perfectly proper.
it may partly be menopause, making thing more difficult for her; mood swings, endocrine imbalance etc. it is good that she has had blood test, so not totally hiding away from medics. and the results will be a point of discussion, at least.
she's lucky to have you.

PippaZ Thu 28-Jan-21 18:10:09

Making that contact with the surgery is great. Untreated or undertreated hypothyroidism is really unpleasant. I tend to evangelise about checking now as I felt really awful and it affected my whole life until I found out, more by luck than judgement, what it was. I then pestered my daughter she turned out to have the same condition as did the friend she pestered and her dad. I also tend to do a swift check that my friends eyebrows are not disappearing from the outside towards the middle - another linked symptom smile.

If your friend gets on to the proper level of tablets, or is found to be on them then it's on to the next step. I imagine this will be a bit of a long haul but step by step she may well be able to over come all, or most of, her problems and she is lucky to have you as main cheer-leader.