Does Alzheimer’s Cause Hoarding?
On one of our customary grocery shopping trips, Mom reminded me that she needed to buy fruit. “Lots of fruit!” she drew out the phrase, because the refrigerator was full of cottage cheese. She needed enough fruit to eat all that cottage cheese before it ruined.
When I asked why she had so much cottage cheese, Mom said she didn’t know. I knew she’d been having a few memory problems, so I thought she had probably purchased an extra carton or two on her last grocery run to Safeway. Mom shopped locally between our larger shopping trips, but she was only allowed to drive to the nearest Safeway, one block away.
Perhaps she’d purchased a couple of cartons on alternate weeks, I reasoned. Then was reminded of something else I had noticed.
In the last few weeks I’d noticed a few grocery items had begun to accumulate. I wasn’t sure if she was eating less or we were buying more. So I began to check her grocery list against the shelves of her cabinet.
I had found a few duplicates besides cottage cheese, mostly Mom’s favorites; Cheerios, Cheetos, Twinkies and a few too many ‘honey buns.’ So this trip I did make a point of buying extra fruit; both fresh fruit and canned fruit so Mom could eat all the cottage cheese in her refrigerator.
I was already thinking ahead as we unloaded the car. If there was that much cottage cheese, surely some had already spoiled. I vowed to check each container before putting any other food away.
Living alone, Mom didn’t require the same amount of groceries that she’d purchased when her husband was alive. I could imagine it would be difficult to change her thinking and purchase less when her family size suddenly shrank.
We brought in all the groceries. Piled the fresh fruit high into Mom’s Fruit bowl on the dining room table and put everything away except the perishables.
The first thing I saw was all the Cottage Cheese containers as soon as I swung the refrigerator door open. Oh my! At least 12 cartons of Cottage Cheese were neatly rowed like a dozen eggs.
I told Mom, “…some of this has to be ruined,” as I brought the trash from under the kitchen sink to near the refrigerator door. I brought out one tub and and gave it a slight shake. Then I knew it had spoiled because it surely was not Cottage Cheese.
Something inside the tub rattled. It rattled, and I knew cottage cheese would not rattle. Even spoiled cottage cheese would not rattle.
“What’s in this, Mom, I don’t think it’s Cottage Cheese?” I asked as I removed the lid and Mom argued, “Of course it is.”
It was not!
- The first tub held 3 fried chicken legs.
- The second tub held a half-cup of fresh corn
- Then 2 slices of bread
- 3 boiled eggs
- Sliced cucumbers
- Fried okra, and on and on it went. Every cottage cheese tub held left-overs from many meals, yet mom didn’t remember storing a single one.
Mom’s jaw dropped at the sight of all those bowls– open– revealing their treasures, but not spoonful of cottage cheese.
We looked at each other and began to giggle, and giggle, and giggle louder. Our eyes teared and we laughed so hard our stomach muscles ached. Mom had a bowl of fresh fruit piled high on her dining table, and not a single carton of cottage cheese.
That was only one of the lighter moments that came with Alzheimer’s, and there were lots of them.