Shopping with arthritis can turn an enjoyable activity into a series of frustrations if done incorrectly.
The first step to shopping if you have arthritis is to become organized. Keep items in the same category together so it’s easier to track what you need. Keep a list in a centralized location so you can quickly jot down items as you find you need them.
Pick a good time of day for shopping. Early morning is probably not great if you have rheumatoid arthritis. However, shopping in the late morning or early afternoon will allow you to avoid crowded aisles and checkout counters. Make sure to dress comfortably and to wear comfortable walking shoes.
Most supermarkets now have motorized shopping carts. Use them.
Change your shopping habits. Sometimes it’s easier to shop via catalogs or via the internet.
For grocery shopping, make your list so that you can easily pick up your items in order. For instance, list all your vegetables together, all your dairy and orange juice together since these items are usually stocked together. This will save you time and effort. If items are out of reach, ask for help. Pick up the frozen items last.
If you shop with a child, make sure you give them something to keep them occupied since it probably is a boring experience for them. Take along snacks, a pad and colored pencils, etc. If you place them in the cart make sure they are secured with a seatbelt.
Carry only what you need in a comfortable shoulder bag or knapsack. This will reduce stress on your arms and hands. When your grocery items are bagged, ask that similar items be put together. Paper bags are easier on your hands than plastic bags you have to grip.
Perhaps your supermarket delivers. Some supermarkets even offer delivery via the internet.
Small handbags can be modified with Velcro to fit over your cane for easier carrying. A fanny pack can be very useful for carrying items. Carryalls that attach to a walker are another option.
Be an advocate for your rights. If someone is illegally parked in a handicapped spot, report them to the police.
If you have difficulty even thinking about leaving the house because of your arthritis, ask friends, relatives, or community volunteers for help.
Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR is a rheumatologist and Director of the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Maryland (http://www.aocm.org ). He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and consultant to the National Institutes of Health. For more info: Arthritis Treatment