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Annie Murdach
Annie Murdach, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 143
Experience:  Master's degree in Educational Psychology and Counselor Education. LCPC in Illlinois
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Help! I am staying with my mom for 2 weeks at her house and

Customer Question

Help! I am staying with my mom for 2 weeks at her house and my daughter and grandchildren are here. My daughter and I were shocked to discover that she has food in her cupboards and freezer from the 90s! We are afraid to allow the kids to eat anything and don't know what to do in the coming days. She lives alone in a big house and has 3 refrigerators with freezers and a deep freeze - all full of food. This is an emergency. Should I take the kids back to my home (about 200 miles away) with a fake emergency? We are afraid one of the kids could get sick and die.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Nephrologist replied 4 years ago.

This is an interesting question.

 

Deep frozen foods can keep for a long time, but that's usually measured in months, not decades! However, if you have access to cans over there, these could last a long time. Inspect the can carefully...if there is any bulging present, reject it. If the can looks great, open it and follow your senses. If it smells and tastes good, its probably ok. I would still do an experiment and eat very little of it your self. Wait a few hours perhaps to make sure you dont get sick. I would not eat any fresh frozen stuff like meat, etc thats decades old. If you are having too many doubts, drive to a nearest place to restock, even if it is 200 miles away. Essentially that's a very long day trip, but at least you get to be safe. Hope that helps.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thanks very much for your reply. However, restocking is not the real "problem". The problem is my mom and the food. We DID find bulging cans. The meat, we found may be marked 1993 right next to 2010 right next to unmarked food. We have no way of knowing what is safe. We CANNOT question her - she gets very defensive and upset. We don't want to hurt her feelings, but for example, right now she is cooking a roast which looked extremely bad to my daughter and to me (when we saw it in the fridge.) Short term, we have decided to take the boys and feed them something before dinner (they are ages 3 and 6). Long term, my mom is clearly hoarding food. We have already thrown out several boxes of food, secretly, which had been expired for years. As I said, what's REALLY scary is that fresh food will be right next to food decades old. I am thinking maybe we should get the grandkids out of here. I don't believe we can convince her that her food is unsafe. And probably it's mostly safe most of the time. But we know all it takes it one bad time and someone could die. Please help me. Should I leave next week with the kids, leaving Mom to wonder why I took her great grandkids away from her? I think you are a very caring doctor and I am sure you are an expert in your field, but is there any chance you could forward this to a therapist or psychiatrist or psychologist who is online? Thank you so much. I am really worried. My adult daughter and I can move the food around on the plate and pretend it's eaten, but what about these children? I can't go through this every day, 3 times a day.
Expert:  Nephrologist replied 4 years ago.
I think you are hitting a nail right on. The issue is not the food, but the deeper underlying problem that she is hoarding it. Would not feed the kids old food. Talking to your mother is the only way to go. Perhaps as you stay there for some time you can build rapport with mom so you can talk about this more honestly. I wish you good luck.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: Inaccurate answer.
This is not a question for a nephrologist. This is a question for someone who understands hoarding behavior. My mother has been hoarding food. She is extremely defensive about it. Talking with her about it is NOT going to solve the problem. I am thinking I need to leave her home because she insists on cooking constantly for my grandchildren, daughter, and me. We are here visiting for two weeks. My daughter and I have already secretly removed a trunk-ful of years-expired food and emptied it in a dumpster in the middle of the night. I need someone to help me understand this behavior (by the way, my father died in the late 80s) and give me some strategies for dealing with it. Thank you.
Expert:  Annie Murdach replied 4 years ago.
Hello and thanks for using Just Answer. It is unfortunate that this issue is destroying the time with your mom and her time with the grandchildren. You have identified that safety is the main concern here and if you are not able to get through to her then your best option is to leave. I would be honest with her about why you are leaving though. Don't sugar coat it, explain your concerns, it is for the health of the children. You cannot help her illness until she asks for help. Unfortunately it usually takes hitting bottom before hoarders ask for help. Be clear with her- you love her and love spending time with her, you want the children to have a relationship with her but you cannot risk their safety. Hopefully she will want to work on the problem. If so, then it may be a good time to suggest purchasing new food for you and the kids to eat during the visit (small step). If not, then you go home, or to another place and visit her and do not eat at her house. As you probably already know, hoarders do these behaviors to fill some type of void in their lives. They think the things they buy and keep will bring happiness. It is not until they realize these things bring chaos, suffering and isolation that they want to change. When that time comes you can be supportive and help her find professional help. Best wishes to you in this difficult situation.
Annie Murdach, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 143
Experience: Master's degree in Educational Psychology and Counselor Education. LCPC in Illlinois
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