Walmart Moment Brings Compassion & Clarity

by Nancy Wurtzel on December 8, 2012

Welcome to the blog carnival featuring some of the blogosphere’s most eloquent writers. We’ll be highlighting the work of 8 women who write about what it feels like to be a primary caregiver to someone who depends on you — whether you’re on vacation, it’s a holiday, it’s an emergency at three in the morning, or through all the highs and lows of sickness and health.

We’re continuing to bring attention to the important work that caregivers willingly do. So let’s give thanks to the caregivers in our lives for unpaid work that weaves so many lives together, yet can often leave the caregiver herself or himself frayed and unraveled.

Thank a caregiver today! Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts.

Here are some great, informative links to learn more:


Give a Care Action Website

We Give a Care Informational Portal

A Note from Nancy, the author of Dating Dementia: This post was originally published in March 2011, but it has been reprinted on many other websites and has always elicited a response.  I’m reprinting it today because I’ve been asked to take part in a “blog carnival” — an online event in which a group of writers agree to blog and promote the same cause.

Last week I wrote about making the trip home to Minnesota to see my 90-year-old mother.  The week-long visit was a mixture of experiences and emotions.  Mostly it was good, but sometimes it just wasn’t.

The night I arrived home, I noticed that Mummy — as we affectionately call her — seemed to be “out of it,” and by the next day it became apparent she was having trouble processing information and conveying her thoughts.

Upon investigation, Mummy told me that one of her hearing aids didn’t seem to be working and then added “I also can’t find one of my medications.”

Both problems were big problems.  First, Mummy is totally deaf without her hearing aids and you have to shout and repeat, shout and repeat — sometimes four or five times to get your point across.  By the end of the second day, I had actually started to lose my voice.

The hearing aids required a trip to a town about 40 miles north, and if there is one thing you do not want to do in Minnesota is drive north between October and April.  But go north we did, and it was determined that one of Mummy’s hearing aids needed to be sent in to the manufacturer, since it was not working at all.  The good news is that I spoke to her yesterday and she has it back and now can hear like a normal 90-year-old person with severe hearing loss — which is to say that you still have to shout and repeat, but usually just twice.  Back to normal.

The drugs were more of a concern.  Mummy is taking two powerful memory medications — which do not prevent memory loss, but can lessen the effects of dementia.  She’s had very good results for the past three years but it is vital she take her medications daily.

An eventful trip to the pharmacist got it straightened out.  Eventful because Mummy doesn’t like to part with money — never has, never will.  The cognitive loss has, shall we say, made this even more apparent.

When Mummy found out that she had to pay for her lost prescription, she had a meltdown in Walmart.  Now, I’ve seen my share of meltdowns, but usually its a kid in a shopping cart, and not the elderly person pushing the shopping cart.  It wasn’t pretty.

Mummy pounded on the counter, shouted at the pharmacist, spouted angry refusals and said she was taking her business elsewhere.  She was VERY angry.  The good news is that once Mummy gets her frustrations all out, then she is pretty much done and can move on.  On the other hand, I felt awful about the scene at the pharmacy and returned later that day to apologize and make nice.

What I found at the Walmart pharmacy was a small group of very understanding people who didn’t pass  judgment.  Instead, they all kept their cool, reassured me that they understood and seemed genuinely concerned about my elderly mom.

So now, I was in tears.  Literally.  I had what I would describe as a “Walmart Moment.”  My visit home and this experience reminded me there are a lot of good people — many who know my mom and others who do not — who will cut her slack, overlook behavior and simply understand that she is doing the best she can under the circumstances.

This is true compassion.

I dried my tears, got in my car and drove back to see Mummy.  We played cards (she won) and then I took her out for “Wings Wednesday” at a local restaurant.  The wings and fries were beyond yummy and the tap bear was icy cold.  We had a toast, shared some laughs and all was right in our little world.

Thank a caregiver today! Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts

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