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My World With Alzheimer's: A Trip to the Grocery Store

People ask me what it is like to live with Alzheimer's. My common response is, "I have good days and bad days." So, let's talk about a bad day.

I still drive to familiar places like the grocery store. I realize that I need to go early in the morning because if I go later there is too much noise, too many people, and too much stimulation that I can't keep focused on my task at hand. In my neighborhood there are several 24-hour grocery stores so it is convenient for me to go to the store around 7 am.

A trip to the grocery store

Last week I went to my local grocery and when I walked in, I sensed that something was different.

I took my normal route through the store and the first aisle I came to there were boxes everywhere and I couldn't get through the aisle. I turned my grocery cart and proceeded to go down the next aisle. There was a man with a floor cleaning machine taking up the whole aisle scrubbing the floors.

I started to panic.

A break in my routine

Routine is extremely important to people with Alzheimer's, and my routine was getting broken in a big way. 

I told myself I could do this – I just had a few items on my list. I went in search for a clear aisle and found a few things I was looking for. Then I ran into more cleaning crew and more boxes - I went into a full-blown panic attack because I couldn't maneuver around the chaos in the store. 

I went to find some help and found an employee but by this time my panic attack was full blown. I was not capable of telling this employee what my problem was – I knew exactly what the problem was, but the words couldn't get from my brain out of my mouth.

I started to breathe very heavily and was close to tears. I needed to get out of the store as quickly as I could. I told the employee that I had to leave and at that time the manager of the store came up and asked if he could help. 

The only thing I could say to him at the time was, "Why do you have to clean the floors today?" And ran out of the store.

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Struggling to explain, struggling to understand

I ran to my car and sat there for a very long time. I wasn't sure I could drive home. I couldn't figure out how to call my husband and ask for help. I just sat there.

Eventually I had calmed down enough that I was able to maneuver my way home, which was only a mile away. When I got home, I couldn't tell my husband what had happened – again it was in my brain but the words wouldn't come out of my mouth.

But I was home and that is my "safe space," so I felt better although I didn't feel good enough to leave the house again that day. It was several days before I could tell my husband what happened and he really didn't get it. One little thing that is out of the ordinary can throw me for a loop and affect me for days.

But seriously, why can't a 24-hour grocery store clean their aisles in the middle of the night!

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