My Dad is a super sweet man and I love him dearly but I am going to pull my hair out, Martha told me. She went on to tell me that her dad follows her everywhere, even standing outside the bathroom door making noises until she come out.
It’s no wonder that Martha was frustrated.
Everyone needs a little peace and quiet and some personal space from time to time. Shadowing is common in patients with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Shadowing is when the patient will try to keep their caregiver in their sight at all times. They will follow the caregiver everywhere they go. And they will often become anxious if they cannot see the caregiver. Even trying to get a couple of minutes alone time to go to the bathroom can be a huge challenge.
So what’s a caregiver to do?
First and foremost, remember that the dementia patient is not trying to irritate you. They are most likely afraid. Things are happening in their mind and in their world they cannot understand or make sense of. They may not know where they are or what they are supposed to do and they latch on to the caregiver like a security blanket.
Okay, I understand it is not their fault but it is still driving me bananas!
And it will. You may have to get creative. One lady I met would hand her husband an egg timer when she went to the bathroom. After a while he understood that she would come out when the egg timer went off. He would stand by the door but at least he wasn’t whining for her to come out.
Getting your loved one involved in meaningful activities, like folding clothes or work on a jigsaw puzzle. Setting the table or folding napkins can help. If your loved one was a handyman you may give him a box of nuts and bolts to sort.
Someone who used to work in an office may like to file things in a filing cabinet while an artist type may love a coloring book. There are a lot of adult coloring books available. You could also look on Pinterest for ideas of different crafts you could do.
Remember, it is about helping the person to feel a sense of belonging. Having something meaningful to do will help create that feeling. That can go a long way to relieving the anxiety that causes shadowing.
Take a Time Out
It is so important that you get away from time to time. This is especially true if you are dealing with shadowing or other Alzheimer’s behaviors. I promise your loved one will survive if you take a break for a few hours. And the good news is, you will be a much better caregiver when you return.
Light Heart Memory Care has caregivers who are trained to deal with Alzheimer's behaviors and symptoms. Come for a tour to see how our small home environment can make the difference for someone with this disease.
Pat Mack has been helping families make the right decisions to care for someone they love since 1997. Email Her Today for more information.