Before the Alzheimer’s Alan, probably like a lot of men, had always hated shopping with me, but now he had no choice. I always let him push the cart, and he started to develop a habit of hoarding. I’ve always preferred fragrance free soap, but Alan loved anything that smelt, so we both used different types of soap. It’s interesting because one of the recent studies suggests that lack of smell is a pre-cursor to Alzheimer’s, although, Alan loved lavender, roses, anything that had a strong fragrance. Before this disease he was always buying me gifts of expensive perfume – perhaps he was trying to tell me something!
One time we were in a Dollar Store, and he picked up Palmolive Soap which was on sale, he was adamant it was a good deal and cleared all the product off the shelf. Being a Caregiver; one thing you quickly learn is that you never question or argue their perception of a situation – it was soap – harmless. When we got home he rushed into his Office and proceeded to stack the soap in neat piles on a shelf – he had 20 bars and was thrilled, and all night long he kept going back to make sure they were still there, moving and re-counting; it made him so happy. The next time we went shopping, he cleared the shelf of Palmolive again and this time had another 30 bars. Exactly the same thing, came home and stacked them in piles. Finally as he was having so much fun with the soap, one day when we went out, I drove around to every Dollar Store in the area and he was rushing around the store finding the Palmolive. In the end he had 2,500 bars of Palmolive Soap, and everyone who visited was shown his “private stash”; although no one, not even me, was allowed to touch it. Then the inevitable happened, the shelf collapsed! I’m laughing now, even recalling these memories. So much to his dismay, I started to pack the soap into rubbermaid boxes, and carried them out into the Garage. This caused him major agitation and he became very distressed. Eventually once it was all packed away in a cupboard, he put a sign on the door “Top Secret – Soap”, and spent lots of time in the Garage, opening the door to make sure no one had stolen it. He seemed to get a lot of comfort from just knowing the soap was safe. The sign is still in the Garage, and still makes me smile. This same hoarding behavior was carried over to multiple items, pens, cigarette lighters, buckets etc. – if we needed one of something he always thought 20+ was better. I think whatever repetitive behavior develops, providing they are not hurting themselves, or anyone else, you are better to just let them do it. He was happy counting his soap all day long, stacking and re-stacking it.
After Alan died in 2012, I eventually donated the soap to a local Food Pantry. I wonder if Colgate Palmolive ever noticed a spike in their sales!