Shopping & Shoplifting


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Is it normal for someone with Alzheimer’s to go into a grocery store and try to walk out with a cart of groceries without paying for them when he is with his caretaker? When security stopped him, he said he was confused. He had money in his wallet, but I always pay for his things. Do I need to leave him home when he wants to go with me to the grocery store? HELP. Is this just the beginning of odd behavior?



The confusion, disorientation, and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease can cause an affected person to forget to pay for items or shoplift. In your case, your loved one walked out of the store with a shopping cart. In some cases, people with Alzheimer’s may place items in their pockets then forget about them and walk out of the store, at which point they may be charged with shoplifting. Shoplifting can be one of the many challenging behaviors that can occur at times due to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

It sounds like your loved one needs close supervision so that he does not end up with a charge for shoplifting. Do not let your loved one wander away from you, and try to make sure he does not place items in his pockets. Do not give him his own shopping cart-you and he can share a cart so that you can keep it in sight at all times. Before you leave the store, search him to make sure that he has not forgotten to pay for items.
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It may help to notify the supervisors/managers at all the stores that you and he like to frequent. Tell the supervisors about your loved one’s disease and the potential risk for shoplifting. Provide them with a statement listing your loved one’s name, the disease, important phone numbers, and even a photo if possible. If store personnel are aware of his condition, they are more likely to be understanding and can help you watch out for him. You should also place the same information in his wallet just in case he wanders or gets into any problems.

If you feel that these preventive measures may not be enough, and the risk of shoplifting is too great, you may have to leave him at home with supervision. Shoplifting can lead to a legal battle and may even result in placement of your loved one into a long-term care facility. So taking preventive measures is well worth the effort. Good luck.

Tips for Shopping with Someone with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Place information containing the person’s name, important phone numbers, and medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, on the person either in a wallet or purse, or pinned on the inside of their jacket or a pocket.
  • Notify store managers/supervisors at the stores that you frequent about the person’s condition and potential risk for shoplifting or other inappropriate behaviors. Provide them with the person’s name, the disease, important phone numbers, and a photo if possible. Also, providing information about Alzheimer’s disease may help the store supervisors better understand your situation.
  • Closely supervise the persons so that they do not place items in their pockets or place unwanted items into the shopping cart.
  • Do not let the person wander away from you.
  • Share a shopping cart with the person so that you can better monitor both the person and the cart.
  • Before you leave the store, check for any hidden items that haven’t been paid for in the person’s pockets or on the person.
  • Avoid very loud or very crowded places if the person is tired.
  • Watch for signs of fatigue or discomfort. Take time for rest breaks as needed. Try not to prolong the shopping trip if the person is very tired. Fatigue can lead to agitated behavior or increase confusion.
  • Consider enrolling the person in the Alzheimer’s Association Safe ReturnTM program, which provides assistance when a person with Alzheimer’s disease wanders or becomes lost. If the person is enrolled in the program, make sure that s/he carries the “Safe Return” ID at all times.

For more information about the Safe ReturnTM program, check the Alzheimer’s Association website:

Dr. Mindy Kim-Miller is a trained medical physician who provides useful, but general answers to questions provided by online visitors. While Dr. Mindy can not provide specific medical advice or services, we hope you find her responses useful in your personal education. All information is provided for informational and educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect you have an illness or disease, or a health related condition of any kind, seek professional medical care with an appropriate health care professional immediately. Do not postpone or delay seeking treatment or disregard professional advice based upon the general answers provided by Dr. Mindy. Dr. Mindy’s advice is not intended to substitute for a visit to your personal physician or other qualified health provider. Any specific medical concerns or questions you may have should be directed to your personal physician or other qualified health provider.


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