What is shopping

Going out to shop is both a functional task and a social outing. For the person with Parkinson’s, it can be both a pleasure and an ordeal. When Parkinson’s symptoms are mild and well controlled through anti-parkinson’s medications, shopping and other social ventures do not change much after the Parkinson’s diagnosis, particularly if the person is still driving and can go out independently. Often in the early stages of Parkinson’s, the person notices no differences in mobility or stamina.

As symptoms begin to involve more of the body, this condition changes. People with bradykinesia (slowed muscle response and movement) sometimes describe it as walking through mud: Every movement, every muscle response, takes extraordinary effort and concentration for less than ordinary results. Short shopping trips such as to the grocery store to pick up a few items become exhausting, and longer trips such as to a mall to shop for a variety of items become impossible.

By the mid stages of Parkinson’s, there are many facets to planning to go shopping. Key points include:

• Plan shopping trips to take place during peak medication coverage. Always carry a 24-hour supply of medication so extra doses are available if needed.

• Know where bathroom facilities are located in stores and shopping malls.

• Plan twice as much time as anticipated to allow plenty of opportunity to rest.

• Make a list of items to buy, in any kind of shopping, not just grocery shopping.

• If the store or mall is more than 15 or 20 minutes from home, have a bag in the car with a complete change of clothing to accommodate spills and accidents.

• Discuss in advance how the person with Parkinson’s wants to handle situations such as freezing to minimize awkwardness and embarrassment should they occur.

• Be flexible. Shop for essential or important items first. If the person with Parkinson’s tires more quickly than usual, end the shopping trip and go back another day.

It is important, though sometimes difficult, for family members and friends to have patience on outings with the person who has Parkinson’s. The tendency is to rush to the store, find needed items, and rush out. This rushing creates a lot of stress for the person with Parkinson’s, who can no longer move at that pace. If physical stability when walking is a problem, pushing a shopping cart is often an easy solution. The handle is usually at about the right height for the person to grip or even lean on, and full-size shopping carts are relatively stable, particularly as they begin to fill with groceries or other items. Shopping malls usually have wheelchairs available; if the person does not want to ride in one, pushing one provides additional support and an available chair if needed.

Some people with Parkinson’s become frustrated or embarrassed about their symptoms and prefer, by the middle stages of the disease, to stay home rather than go out to shop. Catalogs and the Internet can allow the person to do his or her own shopping without leaving home. In many locations grocery stores make arrangements to deliver groceries, usually for just a nominal fee. The person can select items online over the Internet or telephone in a grocery list. Another alternative is for a caregiver, friend, or family member to shop for the person.