Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Walmart and this Alzheimer's Caregiver

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My name is Bob DeMarco, I am an Alzheimer's caregiver. My mother Dorothy, now 93 years old, suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

I learned in my role as an Alzheimer's caregiver that exercise, bright light, socialization, and simple tasks that allow my mother to use her brain have a positive effect on my mother's quality of life and behavior.

I am always searching for new ways to keep her active and in the world.

About a year ago, I came up with a new idea and decided to give it a try.

I took my mother to Super Walmart for an outing. If you have a super Walmart near you, you already know the parking lot is usually jammed.

When we arrive at Walmart, I look around for a parking space. We do not use the handicapped spot. Reason? Exercise (mission accomplished).

We park, and I walk my mother up to the entrance to the store. Next, I get her into one of those electric shopping carts that allow you to drive around the store. This forces my mother to use her brain (mission accomplished).

When I take her into Walmart we drive around through all the departments. This allows my mother to use her brain for an extended period of time, and to be exposed to the bright lighting (mission accomplished).

My mother usually gets nervous when she is around large groups of people. The experience in Walmart exposes her to lots of people, and sometimes when she is stopped people actually say 'hi' or start talking to her (mission accomplished).

The trip to Walmart satisfies a need to keep her in and attached to the outside world. (mission accomplished).

If I let my mother sit around (actually lay around at home), she often falls into a dark mood. Sometimes she will just stop talking, or worse utter words like " I would be better off dead", or, "I am living on overtime".

I noticed years ago, when I take her out into the world her behavior improves, she starts smiling, and often starts interacting with others (this really makes me feel good--mission accomplished).

To be honest, we both benefit from the trip to Walmart.

My mother gets out, gets some exercise, gets exposed to bright light: while riding in the car, walking up to the store, and in the store. She gets to see people and do one one of her favorite things--shop. She likes the cloths section almost as much as she likes grabbing a box of Cheez-it off the shelf.

For me? I get out in the world and stay attached to other human beings. This beats staying at home day after day--all alone.

The trip to Walmart is like a respite to me. Even though I am a man, I can now tell you the price of everything we buy. I can tell you we save lots of bucks while shopping in Walmart--another benefit.

We now go to super Walmart weekly.

My advice to you? Get out in the real world and smell the Cheez-it(s).

Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for advice and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 700 articles with more than 18,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

From the Alzheimer's Reading Room

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