Rochelle Anderson – Grocery shopping with aphasia, then and now
Rochelle had a stroke and aphasia in 2007 and is still getting better. She shares her experience with going to grocery stores before and after the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
After my stroke, but before the virus, I went to shop at grocery stores. My speech therapists were worried that I was going to shop by myself. They were worried that I would lose money, or people would try to steal things from me because of my stroke and aphasia. I thought this over and talked with my husband. We decided that since I would be using a credit card that money wouldn’t really be a problem. I think people knew something was wrong with me, but I was able to buy my food just fine.
The worst part about my aphasia was that I would forget what I was supposed to buy. My husband has very bad penmanship and even if he wrote a list for me I couldn’t read his writing. He wanted me to have a list on my phone. My stroke makes it hard for me to look at my phone and then buy what I needed from the store. So we decided that my husband would type up the list with a large font and print it. The grocery list worked great.
A few years ago, I was shopping at the grocery store and was buying some stamps with my credit card. Since I was only buying a few things, I kept my credit card in my hand rather than put it back in my purse. My right side of my body is broken and I can’t feel anything with my right hand. So I decided to buy a few more items. When I got to the register, I couldn’t find my LLBean credit card. I was very scared because I needed money and couldn’t lose my credit card. A manager was nearby and he could tell I was very upset. I just said LLBean and he didn’t know what I meant by that. The manager knew something was wrong. He looked at my cart and was going to retrace my steps. Suddenly, another employee had found my credit card and brought it over to me. I was so happy and relieved. I thought that managers should know they need to by nice trying to deal with people who might be older and confused, who might not speak English well, or might be disabled like me. That evening my husband went back to the store to thank the manager.
But now we live in the time of COVID19. We order things from Target and Amazon to be delivered but I still like to go to the grocery store to buy meat, vegetables and fruit, toilet paper, and Clorox. Plus, it is sometimes fun to go places and talk with people to help improve my aphasia. I am by myself often since I cannot work. I always wear my mask, I use hand sanitizer frequently, and only stay for 15 minutes at a time during the non-busy time.
There is a bakery in the store, and the people that work there are very nice to me. They know I have some trouble talking and will be patient trying to understand what I am saying. We talk a bit about what is new and it is nice. Sometimes the people in the bakery are the only people I talk to all day. I can no longer go to movies or see plays, so the bakery is sometimes the highlight of my day.
For Thanksgiving, I went shopping at my store. I saw someone I knew but because of the masks, I had a hard time telling who she was. This woman was a volunteer in my classroom I attend weekly for those with aphasia. We said “Happy Thanksgiving” to each other, and it was nice. Again this shows shopping at the grocery store is one of the few options for social interaction during the pandemic.
So, what are the lessons about going to the grocery store with aphasia?
- Wear a mask, of course.
- Bring a list of things that you want to buy.
- Figure out which employees will be the most understanding.
- Go shopping when it isn’t that busy.
- Use a credit card so you don’t have to figure out cash and coins.
- Use hand sanitizer immediately when you leave the store.