Concerns about my sister's lack of care at home


My sister, Sheridan, has recently been diagnosed with a Mesothelioma and has to have lung drains three times a week. She is not too well at the moment and is in rather low spirits.

My concern is her living conditions. She lives in a small bungalow with her husband and dog. She has never been a house-proud person, and is quite untidy. She is a kind, wonderful person, and her untidiness has never been an issue for anyone until she developed her condition. I have discussed with her the benefits of now having a clean tidy home for her physical and mental health and she has agreed wholeheartedly.

The main problem is my brother-in-law. He is a fad hoarder, and my sister's home is chock-a-block with what are mostly his discarded or unused possessions that have been gathering thick dust over a long period of time; dust that she should not now be breathing in.

I have had several discussions with him about decluttering and getting a cleaner in for my sister's sake, but he has a very casual attitude towards how important a clean, tidy home now is for my sister's lung condition and state of mind. His hoarding is not due to mental health issues, he is just too lazy to organise and put things away, using his home as one big storage container. Nor is he in denial of her illness. He knows she will die before her time, but is doing nothing to improve the quality of what life she has left. I am trying to, but live too far away to be there all the time. Her best friend. Jackie, lives nearby, and is taking more care of Shel than her own husband is.

Jackie organised a professional decluttering and cleaning company to come and giver her a quote (Shel can more than afford it) but he told Jackie to cancel it and promised me that he'd do it himself. It seems to us (her side of the family and friends) that he does not want to spend the money being provided for her care. He took a month off work to gut, clean and redecorate the place. It became nothing more than a four week holiday where he did nothing towards making any improvements to my sister's living conditions. He did not attempt to do anything useful besides taking her to her appointments. He will even let someone else take her to the hospital if they offer. In fact, her ex-husband shows more concern and has been doing more for her than her current, but we cannot expect him to clean her house.

I have been waiting for my brother-in-law to be out of the way and back to work before I attempted to do anything, and yesterday, myself and my daughter, AJ, spent the day with Shel. We cleaned, tidied and organised one side of her lounge, which took over an hour. I then spent the rest of the day cleaning her kitchen, which, since she has become poorly, is not just messy, but has become filthy because she has no strength to wipe it round. It is also full of flies because he has not yet bothered to get a fly curtain for the back door, which has been ever open in the recent heat. My brother-in-law sees no harm in preparing her a meal in these unhygienic conditions. There was a full scrap food caddy sitting amidst the washing up on the draining board. Everything she eats with has been crawling with flies. I feel his attitude toward her home care is tantamount to a neglect that will lose me myself sister before I need to. She coughs constantly whilst being around all the dust. 

I am fully prepared to get as much as possible cleaned up with each visit, but not only do I live a fair distance from her, but I cannot be her full-time cleaner. She needs to employ one but is not strong enough to argue with her husband's debates on spending money that isn't his anyway.

I would just like to say that her NHS care is outstanding. When she has been in hospital for a few days, she comes home feeling and looking so much better. She is home for a week or so and goes downhill again, and as her only sibling, I am becoming distraught, because I know I cannot get through to her stubborn husband. Is there anyone I can contact -- social worker, case worker -- anyone who can pay a visit and stress to him that her living conditions are not acceptable? I feel that if someone official puts it to him, he has no excuse not to make a concerted effort with improvements, and will allow her to have a cleaner once or twice a week. 

I thank you wholeheartedly for any help you can give me with this concern. 

  • Hi 

    Thank you for contacting us on the Macmillan Online Community.

    I am sorry to hear your sister Sheridan has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and that you are so concerned about her health and living conditions at the moment. I am really glad you have got in touch.

    It must be really hard being so far away, and sounds as if you have been trying to support as much as you can, but that more support is needed to help your sister have a tidy, comfortable and safe home. I can hear how concerned you are about the dust and unhygienic conditions with you saying conditions are tantamount to neglect and how worried you are that this could cause you to lose your sister before you need to. It’s clear how upsetting and distressing this is feeling.

    It sounds important to be in touch with the local adult social care team to highlight your concerns around your sister’s welfare and living conditions. They are also the team who can carry out a needs assessment to see what additional practical support may be needed at home to make things more manageable. To find the local team you can pop a post code into the search tool. This will take you to the local council site where you should be able to access contact details for the Adult Social Care and Safeguarding/Emergency duty Teams. Do just call us on the Support Line (0808 808 00 00 8am-8pm, 7 days a week) if you struggle to find the details.

    May I check, do your sister’s healthcare team know about the living conditions and concerns over how they may be impacting her health scat60- you mention she is struggling with a cough? If not it can be important they know so they can support as best they can too. It's good to hear that you are happy with the care your sister is receiving through the nhs, helping her through such a challenging time.

    With this feeling so worrying and stressful for you scat60, and you mentioning that Sheridan is feeling low at the moment, please know both of you (and any other loved ones/family/friends such as Jackie and your brother in law) can be in touch with us as much as needed for emotional support on the Macmillan Support Line. If you feel able to do so, it may be helpful to pass on our details to your brother in law so they can access support if the emotional impact of this diagnosis is proving a struggle and impacting him supporting himself and Sheridan.  There may also be a local Macmillan Support Centre nearby offering emotional and practical support services which you can explore though our in your area tool.  On the Macmillan Support line we also have our Information Nurses for support with general medical questions and our Money and Work service available to explored financial support and rights at work if these have been additional areas causing concern.

    I hope this information is helpful. Please just get back in touch if you have any questions or need further support.

    Take care,


    Information and Support Adviser

    Remember you can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days
    a week, 8am-8pm) or by email. ‘

  • Thank you so much for your kind help. I am sorry for the delay replying, I have been tied up with family affairs. With the information you provided, I have now contacted the Essex adult care team with my concerns and hope to hear from them soon. Again, thank you for taking the time to read my message and respond with such devotion. 

    Yours sincerely,

    Sally Catling 

  • No need to apologise at all Sally (  ), there is no expectation for a prompt reply from you. We know it can be hard when coping with so much.

    I am really glad to hear you have been in touch with the adult care team. I do hope they can offer some support.

    Please do get back in touch on the Support Line or via the Community if you need any more support going forward.

    Take care,


    Information and Support Adviser

    Remember you can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days
    a week, 8am-8pm) or by email. ‘