Growing up, I was always the one to accompany my Mother on our family's biweekly grocery trip. I was a good shopper and a reliable helper. Well, except when I crashed into her ankles with the fully loaded grocery cart. Hey - I was a pipsqueak and those carts don't come with brakes!
Now the rolls have reversed, and I take Mom to the grocery store, every four or five days. She has never been one to shop from a list, I can't shop without one. Making a grocery list is not going to be a new life skill that she can implement. Our grocery shopping trips have to begin at her house. I wander around her house, checking for this or that that might be low or missing. Does she have soap, tp, and toothpaste? Laundry detergent, cat food, and town approved trashbags? Milk, juice, bread, butter, and eggs? I make a list.
"What are you looking for?"she demands again as I peek in the fridge.
The staples? She doesn't need staples, as she no longer cooks, but she still needs them to be in her refrigerator. Month after month, I throw out the unused eggs, and we buy another 1/2 dozen "so I can make a quiche". Her jar of peanutbutter expired in 2005, but it still sits in her pantry, doing it's duty as another jar of "See! I have food in my pantry".
I peek in her fridge, count the jugs of oj, the half eaten tubs of cottage cheese, read the dates on the milk and eggs, and wonder if she ate any of those oranges. (How can I throw them away next week without being yelled at -- because they really aren't round anymore.)
I count the frozen dinners in her freezer, did she eat at all this week?
Now the rolls have reversed. She is the one to push the grocery cart. She needs to lean on it for the long walk about the store. Long long walks. Today it took 90 minutes to shop for fifteen items. She has to read the front page of both newspapers, before she will put them in the cart.
Now comes the hard part. I call it steering my Mother. I have a grocery list in hand and she has the list in her head. I know she has a quart of good milk in her fridge and a pint of old milk too. She wants to buy another quart. Steer her past the milk, on to the butter.
"Well I need butter."
You have three sticks in the fridge.
"The butter dish is empty"
Yes, you have more in the fridge at home.
"Are you sure"
Yes, I saw them today.
On to the deli, the choices are overwhelming. I want to hold up a big sign behind her head: "Please be patient with my Mom. She orders the same thing every time. But she doesn't remember. 1/4 lb turkey and 1/4 lb sliced horseradish cheese."
Last week when we went grocery shopping, I got the lecture about it being "my money and I can buy whatever I want." every time I reminded her that she already had two bags of cat-food, three jugs of orange juice, and seven bottles of molasses at home.
This is harder than grocery shopping with little children.
I use to think that I could do my weekly grocery shopping while my mother did hers.
Nope, nada, ain't going to happen.
I do manage to throw one or two items in the cart for my family, but only because I've seen them when we've stopped at the end of the aisle waiting to turn, and waiting, and waiting. She lets everyone in the store go past before she'll venture out to turn. I think she's forgotten how to say "Excuse me, may I get by?"
I've also noticed that she doesn't respond at all to the cashier and the bagger.
This grocery store is known for their polite and helpful staff, they have always been known for it. Now that I think of it, this is the same chain that Mom and I use to shop at together when I was pushing the cart. Wow.
Back to the cashier and the bagger. The staff is always polite and nice. "Hi how are you? That will be $32.50 please. Thanks for coming. Have a nice day." They get no response from my Mom, no eye contact, no smile, no "you're welcome", no "you too", nothing.
Back at home, she wants to carry all the bags at once, up the stairs, into the house. She swats my hands away from the bags.
Yes Mom, I know you can carry your own groceries, but I'm here, I can carry some too.
I want to scream at her ** I would be offering to carry your *^$% groceries if you had dementia or not, you crazy old woman, I'm your daughter, I've been carrying your groceries my whole life!! **
But I don't. I follow her slowly up the stairs and into the house. I know this woman is scared of losing her control and self reliance. I'm scared I'm loosing her.