Stories about Shopping after Brain Injury
The following are stories of real life survivors of brain injury. Clicking on the titles will take you to their actual story.
A store is a distraction filled world, with countless decisions to make, which most of us give little thought to. Those little decisions challenge the frontal lobes, interfering with memory capacity and the environmental challenges can cause meltdowns and huge errors in judgment. Angela recounts some of these types experiences including a trip to Ikea where she went for one thing and was at the checkout with a pallet full of furniture.
Shopping (particularly in terms of the decision making part of it) is typically thought of as a frontal lobe problem, although it also has a memory component to it, as Elizabeth explained. Our next part will focus more specifically on other frontal lobe problems she has.
It seems no TBI story is complete without a discussion of shopping. Lists are always a prerequisite, but using one is far more complicated than it might seem. In describing some of the misadventures of shopping with a list, she says: “Take the list right with me, come home, darn I forgot this, and even though it’s on the list, I mean and, and normally you, write the list down, take the list with me. I’m reading it and looking at it, which is great and you can walk around the store and get what you need and you think you got it all and get all the way home and it’s like bummer, how come I didn’t get this part, it’s right here.” List making and shopping is a process, one that often doesn’t get fully completed. Elizabeth explains; “List making and shopping is a process, one that often doesn’t get fully completed. I need the help from my husband (in making the list.) I can, too with spelling and reading. Like I, can read but try make sure you understand it and making the list, and we, we actually laughed this morning about that because I did a little shopping before, just certain things we needed, milk, you know bread, just normal things we needed and when my husband came home from work he was like hey did you
Gordon Johnson: Do you, do you go shopping?Ian: I do some of the shopping at times.Gordon Johnson: Do you have a hard time making choices as to what to buy?Ian: Sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t.Ian: I’m just, I’m just kidding. No, there have been not a lot of things; just like, oh you got the wrong kind of butter, or you got the – that ain’t the – or I should say = what’d I do.Gordon Johnson: Do you go to the store for one thing and come home with something else?Ian: I’ve done that several times, but then again there’s a lot of people that have done that one. Oh, I’m just going there for buns. They come back and they’ve got buns and butter and milk and potatoes and peas and corn.
Do you go to the grocery store?: “Yeah, sometimes. Or a department store too, you know and you want, you want to do, I don’t know, it’s, I have a hard time making a decision.” Do you have a problem when there are too many choices?: “Yeah. But then I was looking in Consumer Reports. I got to rely on something like that to help make a decision.”
For the survivor of severe brain injury, it is not just walking that has to be relearned. There is a need to go slow, to heel to toe so much of life. Memory, conversation, shopping “ they all work better when done step by step – heel toe, heel toe. Speech is more complicated, less universal, yet it is like walking, something learned as a child that is much more difficult to learn with an injured brain versus a developing brain.
Do you have difficulties in the grocery store?: “No.” You don’t have problems where you wind up either not buying what you went to get, or buy too much of one thing?: “No, I have really good compensatory strategies. I make a list. I know my grocery store very well, and when I make my list, I make my list according to the aisles in my grocery store. So as long as I have my list, I get all my things.”
Do you have trouble going to the grocery store and picking up the right products off the shelf?: “Actually, that is my wife’s problem. I am a very good shopper. You know, I don’t need, I don’t need name brands. I will go in and I can’t, if you give me $50.00, I could come out with two, two basket carts full of food. If you give my wife $50.00, she will barely come out with one of those little square things.”
Does he go grocery shopping?: “Very rarely.” Had he ever done that with you?: “We’ve tried. When he first came out of the hospital, there was much too much stimulus. It would bother him. He’d be dizzy; he’d have headaches. He just couldn’t handle it. After we went down the very first aisle, he had to just go to the car and lay down. He couldn’t do it.” So he never even got to the challenge of deciding which item to purchase?: “He has come shopping much later, in the last year, and he in general isn’t that impulsive. But when it comes to that he has a problem. He just wants whatever’s on the shelf. He
doesn’t care if we have it at home. He doesn’t care if it’s on sale. He’ll just, so I, I, that’s one of the things I try to keep for myself as a chore, and I don’t usually have him go shopping alone.”
What other places do you have trouble with fluorescent lights?: “School, grocery stores, pretty much anywhere that I’m going to have a lot of sensory overload, maybe. If I’m taking in too much almost I just, if I was like trying to process all the sights and sounds and the people and just everything all at once. I am trying like grocery shopping is one of the hardest things for me. I’ve on more than one occasion when the grocery store was overly packed with people just left my shopping cart halfway through it and just left.”So is it worse when you come inside at night where you’ve been in the dark and coming into a bright store or is that make no difference to you?: “It might be just the initial shock of it but it always usually affects me worse after like an extended period. That’s when it really just hits me the worse. I mean it’s never the initial shock. It’s never just so much I can’t handle it but after about five or ten minutes or in a real bad situation going like from night to a big bright grocery store or anything that ends up being a little too much.”
What else bothers you about grocery shopping?: “Just the people. Trying to keep up with everything that I need to have. Trying to remember to not get the cold stuff until the very end of the list. Trying to like if I can’t find the one thing that I’m looking for making a decision of what I can substitute for it or whether I just can do without it orâ€¦ I don’t know. I have a little problem with the decision making itself, maybe.” Does the process of going to the grocery store wipe you out?: “Yes sir. Most any, I do a lot of things but if I do spend an hour of intense focus on certain tasks there’s a good hour and a half to two hours that I’ll sit there and really just absolutely do nothing and decompress. I can’t really think about things. I can’t really do anything. There’s no task performance. I mean I will really just, I just can’t do