Mother Hoarding Dangerous People

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My grandmother (mother’s mother) was diagnosed with schizophrenia back in the 1960s. Although diagnosed, she was harmless and loved her family.

My father passed away five years ago. My mother’s father died when she was 3. She married my Dad at 18. Since his death, my mother has completely distanced herself from me and my sister. She has a “hoarder” type personality. Instead of hoarding cats, she is hoarding dangerous crack addicts.

She is getting worse and worse every day. New drug addicts appear every week at her house. They have taken thousands from her (20K+). I try to confront these drug-addicts only to see my mom stand-up for them.

I fear this WILL become dangerous for my family (as we all live next door to her).

Is there anything we can do to have her evaluated? I do believe the proper medicine may help….

A. This is a concerning situation. It poses a threat to your mother and to your family, given that you and she are neighbors. People who are drug-addicted are not thinking clearly. Being high increases the likelihood of unpredictable behavior, which may include violence. It is undoubtedly a high-risk situation.

I don’t have many details about your mother and her condition but below are a few suggestions about how you might effectively handle this situation. The operative word is might. The reality is that you may not be able to effectively intervene, even though this is a serious problem that puts your mother, your family and perhaps other neighbors in potential danger.

You asked about having her evaluated. I am assuming that she won’t be evaluated willingly.

Individuals may be forced to undergo an evaluation when they pose a threat to themselves or to others. Short of that, it may be difficult or perhaps impossible to force her to have an evaluation.

One could make the argument that allowing crack addicts in your home is a sign that someone is not thinking clearly and thus such poor decision-making poses a threat to themselves. But given the often-strict inpatient commitment laws in many states, it’s unlikely to be enough of a “case.”

Many communities have emergency mobile crisis teams that evaluate individuals in their homes. If members of the crisis team believe that your mother is a harm to herself or to others, they can legally mandate that she undergo an evaluation at a local hospital. That may be one way to ensure that she is evaluated.

Simply having her evaluated may not be enough. If it is determined, by the hospital physicians, that she is not enough of a danger to herself or to others, then she will be released.

Another possibility is to call the police and report the drug activity in her home. Understandably, you do not want your mother to become involved with the law but it might be one way to ensure that drug-addicted persons stop coming to her home. This may seem harsh but the reality is that your mother is in danger primarily because her mental illness is preventing her from being able to properly care for herself. Your ultimate goal is to protect your mother. In this case, it seems as though the ends might justify the means.

A long-term possibility to explore is having your mother declared incompetent. One would choose this legal option in cases in which individuals have mental illnesses so severe that they are unable to competently care for themselves. A judge would evaluate the evidence regarding your mother’s competency and objectively decide if she is able to properly care for herself.

Some individuals with schizophrenia do not recognize that they are ill. Unfortunately, many mental health laws do not factor in this clinical reality. It effectively means that in too many cases, individuals with severe mental illnesses go untreated. This presents a particularly difficult challenge for families who have to witness their loved one descend into a frightening state of psychosis and are helpless to intervene.

No one would argue that an individual in an advanced state of Alzheimer’s is capable of making rational, self-care decisions yet individuals in advanced stages of psychosis are treated as if they are capable of making rational, self-care decisions.

I would encourage you to read the book “I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” by Xavior Amador. Amador offers strategies for how to effectively interact with individuals with schizophrenia who do not recognize that they are ill. There are no perfect solutions but many have found his book to be highly useful. You should also contact the advocacy group, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), for further assistance.

If you’d like to write back and provide more details about your mother’s situation, I’d be happy to provide you with a more specific answer. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Sep 2012

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2012). Mother Hoarding Dangerous People. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/09/16/mother-hoarding-dangerous-people/

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