Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another Comment on Interventions

Back in September, I wrote a couple of blog posts ("A Family Intervention?" and "Family Intervention Follow-Up") about a father who is married to a hoarder and was looking for advice about whether/how to have an intervention.

Earlier today, I received a comment on the original post from a family law attorney, and I think the comment is worth highlighting. Since it is written from the perspective of an attorney advocating on behalf of a family (as contrasted with advocacy for an individual hoarder), I expect that some members of the hoarding/therapy communities will disagree strongly with some of the advice. I'm comfortable with that. The vast majority of discussions about hoarders seem to focus on the hoarders themselves, while largely ignoring the impact of hoarding on the rest of the family.

Since I am not a lawyer, I won't comment on the legal issues raised by the attorney, but I will comment briefly on the moral/practical issues. In cases where children are involved, the hoarding is severe, and the family wants to give intervention a try before moving out, it can be important to have clear, well-communicated and documented objectives for improving the conditions under which the children are living. It is essential to make progress towards achieving those improved conditions with a minimum of delay. When dealing with a hoarding situation, it is very common for time to slip away, for weeks to stretch into months and years, and for a childhood to be lost. A parent's first obligation is to the children, and my commenter has laid out the steps for a fast, firm intervention as a last resort before breaking up a marriage or someone moving out of the family home.

It may be a painful approach for everyone, especially the hoarder, but doing nothing or using the "go slow" approach that seems to be favored by many hoarders' therapists can be even more painful and damaging to the rest of the family, especially to the children.

Please feel free to add your comments to the original post or to this post. For your convenience, I've quoted the attorney's full comment below.
Anonymous said...
I am a family law attorney. My advise [sic] is to:
  1. Talk to the children and find out how the hoard has affected them. Be proactive and don't wait for them to come to you because they may think you have given up.
  2. Schedule family counseling with a therapist.
  3. Write a letter to your wife about the hoard. Be very descriptive of your past efforts to clean-up as well as the negative effects on the children. Inform her about the date for family counseling. Tell her the consequences (separation) if she does not participate in counseling AND the clean-up. Give her a timeline and all the help she will need to clean up. Set a clean-up day after you have given her time to clean it up herself (which will never happen). Send the letter to her by email, registered mail (return receipt) and by process server to assure she could say you never say she didn't receive the letter.
  4. On the scheduled a clean-up day have close family and friends there to help. Pull EVERYTHING outside. Divide everything into piles to: recycle, trash, donate or keep. If she wants to donate something you know is trash, tell her you will donate it then take it to the dump. Choose your battles.
  5. Record the hoard before her clean-up, after her clean-up, before your scheduled clean-up day and after.
  6. Stick to it, through the anger, tears, threats, etc. Hold your ground. Clean it up. Keep it clean.
  7. Set rules for the house. If the rules states no clutter in the living room, don't go to bed with clutter there. Take a picture of it then move it.
  8. If all fails get a good lawyer and you should get full custody. You can put terms in the custody agreement that the children will not visit the mom over her house unless it is clean. The term "clean" will have to be defined in the agreement.
January 13, 2013 9:58:00 AM EST
I'd like to thank the anonymous attorney for making a very thought-provoking comment! I also suggest that anyone who is considering an intervention strategy should consult with both a therapist and an attorney, as everyone's situation can be different, and laws can vary widely from one community to another.


TC said...

It is so clear and straightforward it is hard to believe I haven't read advice like this on any other hoarding sites.

Alexis Coull said...

"Hold your ground. Clean it up. Keep it clean.

Thank you, anonymous attorney. This is, so far, the clearest advice I've read from an anonymous person.

Hoarder's Son said...

@TC - I think that's because most hoarding sites focus on the hoarder, and not on the impact the hoarder has on the family. Sadly.

House cleaning Sydney said...

It is a very thought provoking article.I want to ask that why have you the word clean in the end of this article?House cleaning Sydney

Anonymous said...

Finally a common sense list. I am confused and angry that all shows expect the hoarder to accept help and participate...all of a sudden. These issues are so long term, infecting, debilitating. A fast immediate quick clean direct solution is required, not chronic "help". get the environment totally cleaned out. What ever it takes. Period. Then address the severe mental health problems. inside a clean straight house. How can a dr expect any healing in the midst of such misery. This is an acute medical problem. Give it an acute solution and address the chronic after the cleanup. Worry about the recidivism after the cleanup. Have ongoing cleaning in place. These brains are so compromised, they shouldn't be allowed to make life and death decisions.

Grace Kelynack said...

Family intervention when needed are advisable especially when the interruption is for good. However, bear in mind that intervention has its limitations to avoid any biases and dependence to the other party. Just inform and let them know the issue and let them figure out what'll be the best way for them to get ahead of the issue. In this way, they will even learn by themselves the next time they face this kind of conflict.

Sharon Anzalone said...

The main role of parent in their child or particularly at this situation is to guide and enlighten them on the things they are going to commit. Yes, this can be somewhat be blamed with the way the parents raised their child and the kind of environment the society had put them in. You know, since they aren't that mature enough they tend to decide recklessly.