The Arthritis Newsletter

Summer 2012

Around Town: Shopping Tips


All of us have been shoppers at some stage – shopping is a part of life, whether we shop for pleasure or necessity.  Some enjoy it more than others.  Those who do enjoy shopping often take pleasure in sharing the experience with a companion … retail therapy with friends can be so much fun!  But if the only companion happens to be arthritis, the experience can quickly turn unpleasant, even for the most devoted of shoppers.  Obstacles seem to be everywhere: difficulty handling clothes hangers, trying on clothes, reaching for items, lifting items, bagging items, maneuvering shopping carts, standing in long line-ups, pinching coins to pay for items, and loading and unloading purchases into a vehicle. But however challenging, arthritis also makes us very resourceful and we adapt to our new reality.  We find solutions that will allow us to continue to shop for the necessities and to enjoy a little retail therapy now and again! Here are a few solutions to the physical limitations that you may be facing:



1. Let your fingers do the walking. To narrow your search for items, telephone the stores before leaving home or search out sources on the web.


2. Comfortable shoes are critical to having an enjoyable shopping experience.  An occupational therapist can recommend shoe options that will help you deal with your specific needs and advise you if special orthotic inserts are necessary.


3. Wear clothes that you can easily take off and put back on in the dressing room.


4. Lighten the load.  Before leaving home, take all unnecessary objects out of your purse.  A hand-held purse can cause trauma to your hands and wrists and stress the joints of the elbow and shoulder.  Consider a small over-the-shoulder bag with a wide strap that can be worn across the chest.  Remember to switch sides often.


5. Phone a friend and ask him/her to join you.  Friends who understand your limitations can be particularly helpful when it’s time to cart heavy bags.  A friend can also provide good assistance in the dressing room when shopping for clothes, particularly bathing suits.


6. Consider investing in a folding cart to carry items to and from your vehicle.  Remember to push not pull your cart.


7. Grocery shopping:

  • Write your grocery list to correspond with your grocery store’s layout.  This will help you to avoid retracing your steps.
  • If you find chopping vegetables problematical, add fresh, pre-chopped packaged vegetables to your shopping list (the convenience can sometimes outweigh the cost).
  • If buying in bulk is unmanageable, ask a family member or friend to help.  Perhaps you will find it useful to schedule a monthly shopping trip for those bulky items, and ask for help getting them from the car to the house.
  • Some grocery stores have electric scooters with large baskets for people with mobility issues to use.  Determine which stores provide this service and frequent them when needed.
  • Keep a reacher in the vehicle for use when grocery shopping. With a reacher you can avoid bending over or stretching up to reach for small items, thus reducing the possibility of causing further physical injury.
  • If you have Raynaud’s syndrome, bring a pair of gloves.  These gloves will help you avoid the change in temperature when reaching for items in the refrigerated and freezer sections.
  • Plastic bag handles can be difficult to carry when the finger joints are swollen or painful.  Bring your own cloth or paper shopping bags. These can be carried close to your body with both hands, thereby eliminating strain on your joints.
  • Ask the grocery clerk to pack your bags “lightly” to avoid having to lift and carry heavy bags.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to ask for assistance with your groceries.  Most grocery stores have employees available (and eager) to bring your groceries to your vehicle.
  • Shop more often to avoid the burden of managing a large number of items.  Buying fewer items each trip will make grocery shopping less onerous.
  • If you’re tired when you get home, unpack only refrigerated and frozen foods.  The rest can wait till you’ve had a rest.
  • Call local grocery markets to find a grocer that delivers.


8. Practice proper standing posture when waiting in long lineups at the checkout counter.


9. Some practical advice … Listen to your body, and do not shop till you drop!


10. Allow yourself a treat before heading home.


11. Take advantage of as many delivery services as you can.


12. Shop online.  Yes, it can be a bit like pressing your nose against a shop window after hours, but it can save you time and physical effort.  The Better Business Bureau of Canada has tips to ensure you have a safe online shopping experience. Better Business Bureau


Happy Shopping!

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