Sonal represented AC by her litigation friend, the Official Solicitor with Neil Allen of 39 Essex Chambers.
The case involved a lady (AC) who was 92 years old and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia. She has lived in her home for over 40 years. Her husband passed away around 11 years ago and her son, (GC) gave up his job to move in to look after her. He had been his mother’s main carer until she moved to the care home.
Both AC and GC have been diagnosed by Professor Salkovskis as having a hoarding disorder. The local authority has been concerned that AC’s care and support needs could not adequately be met in the home environment as it continued to present a serious health and safety risk due to the volume of items in the property.
In 2020, an application was made for an order that AC be moved from her home to a respite placement to allow for issues of hoarding, cleanliness of the property and for the property to be made safe.
In March 2022, the court declared it was in AC’s best interests to move from hospital to a care home which was facilitated on the 21 March 2022. The court also declared that AC lacks the mental capacity to:
- Conduct these proceedings
- Make decisions as to her residence; and
- Make decisions as to her care and support
The social worker concluded it was in AC’s best interests to remain at the care home because of the risk of self-neglect if she went home and refused care from carers and the high risk of GC continuing to hoard in the property in light of the expert reports.
The court needed to determine the following factors:
- Whether AC could make decisions regarding her items and belongings
- Whether AC should return home for a trial period, receiving a package of care there
- Whether to appoint a deputy for AC’s property and affairs.
- Whether GC (the son) had capacity to:
- Manage his own property and affairs
- Manage AC’s property and affairs
- Make decisions regarding his items and belongings
- Make decisions regarding AC’s items and belongings
The local authority suggested the risk of AC returning home and the care package breaking down was too great and she should, therefore, spend the rest of her days at the care home even though it is against her wishes.
Despite receiving good care at the care home, AC has clearly and consistently expressed a wish to return home. AC has a strong sense of belonging to her home, to wanting to be where she has looked after people for three generations, where she can remember the past. She has a strong desire to continue to live with her son and be reunited with her pet cat, Jasper.
HHJ Clayton: : “Ultimately what has persuaded the Official Solicitor that a trial at home is in the best interests of AC is the consistency of her wishes to return, with her having such a strong sense of belonging to her home, to wanting to be where she has looked after people for three generations, where she can remember the past.”
“I concur and add that that she has a strong desire to continue to live with her son, who moved back home to help care for her when her husband died, some 11 years ago, where she has familiar things around her, which takes on an even greater significance with someone who is likely to have a hoarding disorder herself.
“There is no doubting the importance to her of her relationship with GC, nor her strong desire to become reunited with her pet cat.... It is these issues which are of magnetic importance in this case, when I bear in mind, she has lived in her home for 40 years, that she is now 92 with straightforward care needs and a limited life expectancy.”
HHJ Clayton went on to say:
“A trial of care at home is not without risk but, on the evidence before me, it is a manageable risk and one which should be taken to try to afford AC the opportunity of returning to her home, in improved circumstances, and with the hope and expectation that it will continue to improve in the coming weeks and months.
All agreed that a deputy should be appointed for Ac’s property and affairs and, specifically, it should be Debbie Anderson.
This judgment is helpful to anyone working with people who hoard where mental capacity is in question. Helpfully, Her Honour Judge Clayton has agreed Professor Salkovskis’ suggestions that the information relevant to the decision in respect of making decisions regarding one’s items and belongings are as follows:
- Volume of belongings and impact on use of rooms;
- Safe access and use;
- Creation of hazards
- Safety of building
- Removal/disposal of hazardous levels of belongings.
This is a separate decision to that of a person making a decision regarding their general property and affairs.
For full details of the case, click here AC and GC (Capacity: Hoarding: Best Interests)  EWCOP 39 (15 August 2022) and for further commentary from 39 Essex Chambers, please click here.
Thank you from the Judge….
“I mention now the skilled work undertaken by the solicitors for GC and AC, to progress the cases of their clients, to provide support and assistance to them and the very best information to the court. Their work has been acknowledged by counsel, who have been able to achieve a great deal prior to the start of this hearing as a result of that diligent preparation. I wish to thank them as well as counsel who have shown sensitivity and attention to detail”