Alzheimer’s and Hoarding

By Sandy Spencer on January 26, 2015

Alzheimer’s and Hoarding

I still smile as I remember Mom’s surprise when we opened all those containers of cottage cheese she’d been hoarding in her refrigerator.

On one of our customary grocery shopping runs, Mom reminded me that she needed to buy fruit. Lots of fruit! She said the refrigerator was full of cottage cheese and she needed fruit to eat all the cottage cheese before it ruined.

I asked why she had so much cottage cheese. She didn’t know. I assumed she’d been purchasing it every week and forgetting to remove it from her grocery list. In the last few weeks she’d begun to accumulate a lot of groceries, I noticed. So I had taken to double-checking her grocery list, myself.

Since I’d been taking her to the grocery store recently, we’d found many duplicates besides cottage cheese; cereal, crackers, Twinkies and a few too many “honey buns” filled Mom’s cabinets. So this trip we bought 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 ruined. I vowed to check each container before putting any 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 your thinking and purchasing when your family size suddenly shrank.

We brought in all the groceries. Piled the fresh fruit high in a bowl atop the dining table and put everything away except the perishable refrigerated goods. I saw all the cottage cheese containers as soon as I swung the refrigerator door open.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

It seemed odd to me, though, since I hadn’t remembered purchasing so many containers of cottage cheese and I’d been taking Mom shopping for nearly a year. I picked up one tub and gave it a shake.

Something rattled inside the plastic tub. Not– cottage cheese, I’m thinking.

I removed several more cottage cheese tubs from refrigerator to counter top, shaking each and knowing whatever was inside was–NOT cottage cheese.

And it wasn’t.

  • 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. All those cottage cheese tubs held left-overs from many meals, yet mom didn’t remember storing a single one.

Mom’s bottom jaw dropped at the sight of all those bowls– open– revealing their treasures, but not even a 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.

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By Sandy Spencer| January 26, 2015
Categories:  Dementia

About the Author

Sandy Spencer

Sandy Spencer

Once my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, our life was filled with sorrow and grief so that I thought none of us would ever smile again. I was wrong, and for the few years before my mom’s passing there were many happy and joyous moments that I will never forget. I hope you enjoy hearing a few of these stories about my Mom. Some are sad and some confusing but a lot of them are just down right funny. I learned about strength and fortitude and humour through the sadness of this disease and it took all of them to help me survive the journey with my mom. I believe, with a little knowledge about Alzheimer's after the diagnosis the long road backwards isn’t nearly as bumpy for the patient or the caregiver. You can contact Sandy at:

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