How can I get a fire safety inspection done of my parents' home to help with my father's obsessive hoarding?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 17, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 78 year old mother has been hospitalized for over 5 months and had over 7 abdominal surgeries this year followed by 3 months in a nursing home. She has recuperated for an additional month in my home which is handicapped friendly. Now she's ready to return home to her home along with my father who has severe hoarding/cluttering obsessive compulsive disorder. She uses a rolling walker and is unsteady. There are no clear walkways in their home - only 2-3 inch wide pathways. The entire floor is covered with newspapers and mail. My father refuses to clean it up. My mom thinks she will be able to navigate through it using a cane. Can any local agencies help with what to do about such a severe safety/fire hazard? They reside in suburban, MD near Washington, D.C.

Expert Answers

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

You are wise to write. Some difficulties have to be taken beyond the family into  community services working together. Your job as caregiver to your parents will be to help coordinate and communicate.

I would suggest two approaches to start. To get a fire inspection go to the nearest fire station and find out the process in your county to get you father's house inspected by the fire marshall.

This will enter your father and your family into a process of seeing whether he will be able to clear up the mess or to have the house condemned. Since your dear father has refused to listen to the family, you have no other choice.

I would also suggest that you contact social services for your county. 

Sometimes we fail to get treatment for our parents, after they are old, because it is hard to deal with the anger.  Also, it sometimes takes more official channels. Your father needs help. He may not be competent at this point to deal with his life. Your mother, probably out of old habit, wants the familiarity of her home whether it is safe or not. 

After consultations with these two county agencies, if you need further assistance, please write back.    You have extended yourself.   You have taken care of your mother.    Now you are going to get some help.  

  You may need a support group.  You are moving.  You are expanding.  You have been solitary family helpers.  Now you will become part of the team of people needed to sort this out.  

  Don't give up, people have to work together.