I’m not a shopper. In fact, I always joke with my friends and say I’d almost rather have a sharp stick inserted in my eye than to spend a day shopping. However, yesterday, I had errands to run and things to buy so I set foot into both a major department store and the grocery store in the same day. I had very specific lists for both places and I didn’t veer from those lists. I went into the aisles where the goods we needed could be found. But, as I walked through both stores, I couldn’t help but become a bit overwhelmed by the amount of choices we have available to us. (I usually feel this way in stores but since I knew I would be blogging today, it seemed to strike me more vividly than usual.)
My husband and I have become accustomed to certain brands and we pretty much stick to those brands. As I approached the toothpaste aisle to purchase our preferred tube, I noticed that there were about 10 other brands available. Within those 10 other brands, there are different aspects or features to choose from: cavity-fighting, whitening, enamel-protecting, organic, dye-free, gel, paste, etc. This variety of choice seems to be available in just about every aisle of the grocery store. There are as many different brands and types of soup, pasta, ice cream, bread, milk, etc. And the same is true in department stores where you can purchase bath towels, sheets or underwear in 20 different colors. Or choose from a dozen different kinds of light bulbs or Christmas ornaments or pet food.
I remember when I first went grocery shopping for my widowed uncle who didn’t like to cook for himself. He reached a point where he didn’t like driving in winter weather so I took over his grocery shopping while I did ours. His list was usually pretty simple: frozen (microwaveable) meals, some fresh fruit, milk, eggs, bread, ice cream. Because we had a close relationship, we both assumed that I’d return with things that he’d like. I carefully looked at labels because he had congestive heart failure and was supposed to limit his sodium and cholesterol intake. I probably spent an extra hour in the grocery store making what I thought were sound, healthy choices for my uncle’s health and well-being.
But the first trip to the store proved a learning experience for each of us. I purchased everything on his list, but not all the brands that he liked. I purchased several of the healthier frozen meals (they are few and far between) only to learn that he’d tried them before and HATED them. After we sifted through the bags of groceries I brought to him, we ended up with two bags of items to be returned for the brands that he preferred. Back to the store I went … but this time, equipped with the knowledge of his preferences.
No matter how well we know someone, we can’t know everything about them. We may not always know that they’ve tried something before and didn’t like it (and would not want to have it again). We may not know that they prefer a brand name item over a generic item. Like my first grocery shopping trip for my uncle, we won’t know likes/dislikes unless we have a conversation before jumping into the task. Even when we try to make sound “healthy” choices, we may be choosing something that isn’t desired.
Caring Choices believes that having multiple and frequent conversations is the only way to fully understand what someone else wants/needs related to healthcare choices. Just like within a grocery or department store, we will each be faced with overwhelming healthcare choices for treatments, procedures, medications, etc. Don’t make someone you love try to figure out which “brand” you want. Give them the power of knowledge. You CAN talk about this.
(c) 2014 Caring Choices