Tips and ideas for when your loved ones starts shopping too much. How to help and what you can and can't control in regard to your your family members compulsive shopping habits.
My Elderly Mom Shops Too Much!
As an Alzheimer's or dementia caregiver, we have plenty to worry about. But recently I have started to worry that Mom will be squished by the massive amounts of things that Amazon brings to the house.
There is not one day that goes by that doesn't bring the doorbell ringing and another box landing on the front doorstep.
She even got locked out last week when she went to the mailbox to get something that she thought we weren't bringing in fast enough.
And yes, my husband and I went in right after I took these pictures to get rid of all the boxes and “tripping hazards” so Mom is safe!
Why Are Dementia Peeps Compulsive Shoppers?
So first let's look at why our loved ones might be shopping so much! Here are few reasons that Mom shops…
She doesn't have a lot to do and spending her day shopping and dreaming is a good way to spend her time.
This leads to a lot of impulse purchases that we don't understand and which wind up creeping out into my house as she gives them to me or the kids.
My Mom buys so many calendars! She thinks that if she can just get the right calendar it could help remember things the way she used to.
This one breaks my heart. I KNOW she is scared because she can't remember and I don't have the heart to tell her that the last 3 didn't help so this one probably won't either.
They Forget… Duh!
Mom recently lost a lot of weight and her size 16s fall off her body. When that happens she thinks that she should get smaller clothes, not remembering that she already ordered a smaller sized item of clothing already.
As most of us know, things go missing around our loved ones frequently, so they might think that they don't have something and order it again.
They Always Shopped A Lot
Mom is a part of the Baby Boomers who are notably a big consumer generation. Mass production started in her lifetime and she has always been a shopper.
As with much of of her illness, dementia has simply exaggerated what she was already like (so much shopping and so little patience!)
She Went Without As A Child
My Mother In Law's Mom was a young widow and they didn't have much. Mom tells stories of how her Mom made all her clothes and all she wanted was new clothes from the store.
That early deprivation has made Mom a clothes, decor and food shopper/hoarder in case she ever has to go without again!
Additional Resource: Why Won’t Your Alzheimer or Dementia Parent Throw Anything Away?
How To Curb Their Shopping Addiction
Okay, this is a tough one! Most shopping is done because it feels good in the short term, but causes problems in the long term.
I did a bunch of research before writing this about shopping addiction and most of the advice is the same…
…recognize you have a problem (good luck with that one!)
…give yourself a budget and stick to it (ditto)
…get mental health counseling
As you know, most of the advice requires a level of comprehension and accountability that many of our loved ones just don't have.
Here are some things that might help, nicest to sneakiest… sigh.
Talk To Them About Their Shopping
I can hear the sighs from here! Talking to our loved ones about something rational and thinking they are going to retain it is frustrating! But it might be worth it to give it a try.
Limit Shopping Trips
When I take Mom to Michaels I swear she buys every flower in the store. And I love that she likes decorating her room for the holidays.
But there are only so many places she can put flowers so I have to limit the times that we go to the stores in person!
Same for the department store or grocery store. The fewer times we actually take her the less she can buy.
Lie About Shopping Trips
Well this went downhill fast, I lie about when I am going to take her on shopping trips. “Let's do that later in the week” sometimes works and she forgets that I promised to go this week so I just say that again next week.
Cut Up The Credit Cards
If your loved one has credit card debt that they can't afford, you are going to have to cut up and cancel their credit cards.
Contact the banks and let them know the situation and try to get your loved one to give approval for you speak on their behalf or become a co-signer on the account (check this one with your bank or attorney because you may be assuming their debt if you do this!)
Report A Lost Card
We haven't resorted to this, but we might in the next wee bit. Call and report the card lost.
This will trigger the bank to send a new one with a different number and it will break the websites they use it on.
Get A Pre-paid Debit Card
This is a GREAT idea I heard on one of my favorite Facebook groups! Get them a prepaid debit card in the amount that they can afford!
It will stop working when the money runs out and you can “charge” it up again when they can afford to spend more!
Block TV Shopping Channels
You can contact their cable provider and block certain channels like QVC or HSN.
If that doesn't work, contact the shopping networks and let them know that your parent has dementia and should not be allowed to purchase anything.
If that doesn't work, get their emails forwarded to you and cancel the orders when you see them come through.
Give Them Their Stuff Back
Okay, this one is really crappy and can lead you to feel guilty, but it works! Box up something that they already bought but didn't use and give it to them again to open.
Our Mom really thinks of the boxes that she gets each day as little presents, unconnected to her room filling up and her credit card bill growing.
If we can give that same thrill by having something new to give her over and over again, why not?
Additional Resource: Getting Used To Lying To Your Dementia Loved One
Personal Finance Disclaimer
I am for sure not a personal finance person. You should talk to a professional about your parents or loved one's finances.
I am just a caregiver who is trying to get us all some help with dealing the problems that are coming in dealing with helping our loved ones.
When they spend money they don't have or need to save for care later in their lives it effects not just them but us too!
Their spending problem can mean that placing them in a better facility becomes out of the question or having to care for them at home forever.
And I do think that part of our job is to help where we can, even if means doing some things that in typing them out feel really mean and deceptive.
You know your loved one's situation and whatever you do to try to curb their excessive shopping will be done out of love. Please try not to feel guilty about it!
I could only find a couple of articles that seemed to be focused on elderly shopaholics…