How do I help a mentally ill parent?



Thank you for all of the work that you do to inform people about what the Bible has to say about various matters.

I need some help trying to understand my role in a situation dealing with my mother. I have a 70-year-old mother who is physically disabled (she has all of her mental/reasoning capacities) and has been hoarding in her home ever since I was a girl. She’s widowed and I have a brother who also checks in on her daily. Her hoarding and lifestyle are a problem. Recently I learned from my brother that neighbors have been questioning her health and safety, they’ve been knocking on the door (she won’t answer). She has had accidents. My brother believes there were fleas in the house and other infestations in the bathroom. There are entire rooms, hallways, and doors blocked off by clutter. The main living area and essential functions of the kitchen and one bathroom work. There are boxes and items that line the areas over which she has even tripped and fallen in the past.

Over the years, I have tried unsuccessfully to get her to let me clean and sort for her. She has refused. Five years ago, she banned me from entering the house because she did not like me coming in and cleaning up the kitchen or bathroom. After learning about the flea incident from my brother a few weeks back, I went ahead and entered the home for the first time in five years. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had several conversations with her and family members to try to get her to let us help her. She needs assistance with bathing, and basic daily functions as it’s difficult for her to stand. She also needs to get her house in order so that she doesn’t fall. If she doesn’t allow us to help, the only other option is to seek help from Adult Protective Services, but she has told me that if I go this route, she will disown me. I don’t know what the correct thing to do is. My brother is adamantly against getting any authorities involved because he is generally opposed to formal authorities.

I know my Mom doesn’t want my help. She tells me it’s disrespectful and not my place. By the way, I’m a woman in my thirties with a family and home of her own. I know she is prideful, onery, and private about her home and life. But I feel that it’s the right thing to do to help my mother who is growing older and less physically functional. I’m scared and I’m not sure how to move forward.

Please offer any advice or guidance as it would be so helpful to me. Thank you so much.


Strangely, I was speaking to someone else last night who is facing a very similar situation. The problem at the moment is that you really don't know what your options are. Therefore, I would suggest either finding a lawyer who specializes in assisting the elderly or a social service worker and talking with them about what you can legally do for your mother. The answer might be that there is nothing that can be done without her permission, or there might be options where someone can intervene. Once you know the options, you can discuss these with your brother and decide which would work best for your family.

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