Primary caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease are frequently all too familiar with the difficulty of trying to grab a minute or two alone – to use the bathroom, get a quick shower, or even just walk into another room. Those diagnosed with dementia can experience enhanced concern when a family caregiver is out of sight – a condition known as shadowing. And the resultant behaviors are difficult to deal with: anger and meanness, repeatedly asking where you are, or crying.
Why Does Shadowing Occur in Alzheimer’s
It might help to understand the reasoning behind shadowing. You’re the person’s safe place, the one who helps to make sense of a disorienting and confusing world, so when you are absent, life can feel uncertain and scary. And understand that shadowing is not caused by anything you have done (or not done). It’s a normal part of the advancement of Alzheimer’s disease.
What Are the Best Tips for Coping With Dementia Shadowing?
Our Alzheimer’s caregivers suggest using the following techniques to help:
- Increase the person’s circle of trust. Having a friend or two with you while you go through the person’s routines can help the individual learn to trust others besides just you. Over time, once that trust is in place, the person will become more relaxed when you need to step away, knowing there is still support available.
- Avoid conflict. Your family member may become angry or combative in an effort to express their nervousness about being alone. No matter what they do or say, it is important to resist quarreling with or correcting the person. An appropriate reaction is to validate the person’s feelings (“I can see you feel upset,”) and redirect the discussion to a much more calming topic (“Would you like to try one of the cookies we made today?”)
- Make a recording of yourself. Make a video of yourself taking care of chores like folding laundry, singing, reading aloud, etc. and try playing it for the person. This digital replacement may be all that’s needed to provide a sense of comfort when they are apart from you.
- Provide a way to track time. Because the sense of time is usually lost in people diagnosed with dementia, telling the individual you will just be away for a few minutes might not mean very much. Try using a common wind-up kitchen timer for quick separations. Set the timer for the amount of time you will be away and ask your loved one to hold onto it, explaining that when it dings, you will be back.
- Integrate distractions. Finding a comforting activity for the older adult to take part in could be enough of a diversion to allow you a brief period of respite. Try repetitive activities, such as sorting silverware or nuts and bolts, filing papers, folding napkins, or anything else that is safe and of interest to the individual.
It’s also helpful to partner with a skilled dementia caregiver who understands the ins and outs of the condition, like those at Grace Home Care. We are able to implement creative strategies such as these to help restore peace fort both you and the person you love. All of our care professionals are fully trained and here to fill in if you need a helping hand. Contact us at 785-286-2273 for more tips for coping with dementia shadowing and to learn how our award-winning in-home care services can help.