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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Lighter Side of Alzheimer's Caregiving - A Grocery Shopping Trip

Taking people who are not ambulatory, and who are on oxygen, out in the car to the grocery store, is something I've done frequently as a caregiver. One day, my spirited 97 year old lady with Alzheimer's was ready for a trip to grocery store. I pushed her wheelchair down the ramp from the house. So that she wouldn't feel she was falling forward when we downhill, I always went first. By pulling her backwards in the wheelchair, I was a brake system. When we got to the car I assisted her with the transfer, positioned her with pillows behind her, and at the side by the door, and lifted the oxygen tank in beside her.

I folded up her wheelchair, rocked it back on the wheels, got some momentum, and swung it up into the trunk.

When we got to the grocery store we did a similar routine in reverse. Once inside the store I pulled the wheelchair with my left hand, and pushed the grocery cart with my right hand. Her purse was in her lap, so she could take care of paying for the groceries. She liked to exercise her feet and legs by "walking" with them while she sat in the wheelchair, so the footrests were off.

When we got to the produce section, I left her for a moment to find some items from her grocery list. When I turned around, she had disappeared. A quick scan of the produce section did not reveal her. How could a person in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank on the back disappear so fast?

I zipped around the first aisle corner and saw a group of people gathered near the cake mixes. Several people were reaching to the highest shelves for mixes, and others were discussing recipes. In the middle was my 97 year old lady, holding court, and giving advice on how to customize the mixes with her vintage recipes.

When I walked up someone said, "Oh, I thought she was here by herself so I was helping."

Whew. I was glad she was O.K. It was a frightening experience for a moment, and I learned from it to keep her in sight at all times. She explained she had just "walked" with her feet and rolled the wheels with her hands because she was in a hurry to get to the cake mixes. Later we laughed when I explained it had caused me some worried moments.

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