Are You Being Followed? How to Overcome Dementia Shadowing
If you’re the primary caregiver for someone with dementia, you may be quite familiar with the challenges experienced in trying to find a quiet moment or two alone – to use the restroom, take a quick shower, or even simply walk into another room. Seniors with dementia can experience heightened anxiety and fear when a loved one is out of sight – a condition known as shadowing. And the behaviors that result can be extremely difficult to manage: anger, crying, or repeatedly asking where you are, to name a few. If you’re struggling with how to overcome dementia shadowing, our dementia care experts have a few tips for you to try.
What Causes Dementia Shadowing?
It helps to understand the reasoning behind shadowing. You are the person’s safe place, the one who helps them to make sense out of a confusing and disorienting world. When they don’t know where you are, life can feel scary and uncertain. Shadowing is not brought on by anything you have done, but is simply a natural part of the progression of the disease.
- Broaden the person’s circle of trust. Having someone else with you as you go through the individual’s daily routines will help them learn to trust someone other than yourself. In time, once that trust is established, the senior will become more at ease when you need to step away, knowing there is a lifeline still available.
- Make a recording of yourself. Record yourself washing dishes or tending to other daily chores, reading a book out loud, singing, etc. and try playing it for the person. This digital substitution can be an effective way to offer comfort while they are separated from you.
- Use distractions. Finding a calming activity for the person to engage in may be enough of a distraction to offer you a quick break. Try repetitive tasks, like sorting nuts and bolts or silverware, folding napkins, or filing papers, or anything else that is safe and interesting for your loved one.
- Never argue. The person may become angry or combative as a way to express their fear of being alone. No matter what they say, it’s important to keep from arguing with or correcting them. Instead, validate the person’s feelings (“I can see you’re feeling angry,”) and then redirect the conversation to a more pleasant topic (“Would you like to try one of the cookies we made earlier?”)
- Reiterate the separation period. Because the sense of time is often lost in people with dementia, telling the person you’ll be away for a just a moment may not mean very much. Try using a wind-up kitchen timer for short separations. Set the timer for the amount of time you’ll be away and ask the person to hold onto it, explaining that when it dings, you’ll be back.
Working with a skilled dementia caregiver who has been trained in the nuances of dementia and can utilize innovative techniques like these can help restore peace to both you and the person you love. As the leading provider of dementia care in Napa and the surrounding areas, our caregivers are fully trained, experienced, and here to help whenever you need some support. Call us at (866) 940-4343 or contact us online for a free in-home consultation to learn more.