By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Shopping Safely for Vulnerable Adults

shopping cart in a grocery store aisle

As a cashier, I have seen the range of emotions and responses to COVID-19 as people venture out to go shopping. Now that many states are lifting Stay-at-Home orders, people seem divided. Many are excited to be able to go to other non-essential places. They are happy to begin a return to normal. There are others, though, who must maintain the cautious social distancing that others are ready to shed. These are people who have illnesses such as cancer and their family members. For these vulnerable people, I have some suggestions for making grocery shopping safer and easier.

Minimize exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses by doing any of the following

  • Utilize InstaCart Shoppers (don’t forget to tip them)
  • Order groceries online from the comfort and safety of your home and pick them up curbside
  • Ask a friend to do the shopping for you
  • If you must do your shopping, only go to the grocery store once a week
  • Try to shop during the hour designated for seniors and people with vulnerable health. If someone in your home is undergoing cancer treatment, you qualify.

A good list is essential

  • Get a list from each of your family members. Compile the lists and try to organize it by the department in the order in which you shop.
  • Take a picture of the list on your phone, in case you forget or lose the paper list
  • Although it may be tempting to zip through the store quickly, it is better to take your time. This will ensure that you don’t forget essential items and have to return before it’s necessary.


  • Bring sanitizer wipes in case the store is out. Wipe the handle of your cart if the store hasn’t already done so
  • If you don’t have sanitizer, you can make your own from 1 c. bleach and 5 gallons of water. [1]
  • Place separated paper towels in a food storage container, pour the sanitizer mixture on the towels and seal it when you aren’t using it. They can also be put into Plastic zip seal bags to make it easier to take them with you to the store.
  • Be careful not to get it on your clothing.

Wearing a Mask

Every time you go shopping, you should be wearing a mask. If you aren’t wearing it correctly, it does you no good. You should always put on a clean mask. If you have worn it before and it haven’t properly cleaned it, you are placing something that already has germs on it, back onto your face. Using clean hands, put the mask on, using the ear loops or ties. Don’t touch the mask again until you finish shopping. At that point, remove the mask and dispose of it, or put it in a bag to be laundered.

Hands (and Gloves)

COVID 19 will not absorb into your skin and make you sick. The real risk is that you will touch your face with your germy hands while shopping, and you will then become ill. You can do this just as easily with gloves on your hands. The critical thing to do is to wash your hands and not touch your face. Nurse Molly Lixey did a fantastic video that went viral, about the problem of cross-contamination with gloves. I highly encourage you to watch it.

Stay Calm and Shop On

Just leaving home to go grocery shopping is causing many people to feel stressed out. If you follow these suggestions and distance yourself from people by 6 feet whenever possible, you will be doing all that you can to stay safe and to keep your loved ones at home safe. It can be helpful to do some mindful breathing exercises before getting out of your car in the parking lot of the grocery store. When you enter the store, focus on what you are doing. This is one of those rare times when you are going out in public. Try to make it as positive an experience as possible. Consider the foods that you are buying and smile at your fellow shoppers from behind your mask. Be considerate to store employees who are doing their best to serve shoppers and keep them safe. They are still only human and will make mistakes.

[1] The CDC website has great information on making your own sanitizer solution.


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Heather Erickson HeadshotABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on

Also, check out Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer.

Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

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One comment on “Shopping Safely for Vulnerable Adults

Really Helpful Article in making the people aware of the exposure they need to prevent and fight virus by staying protected. Thanks for sharing

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