How to Handle Shadowing in Dementia: Overcome the Fear of Being Alone

How to Handle Shadowing in Dementia: Overcome the Fear of Being Alone

If you are a primary caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's disease, you may be interested in how to handle shadowing in dementia, as it is frequently an all too familiar experience that occurs whenever you’re trying to take a quiet minute or two alone – to use the bathroom, get a quick shower, and even walk into another room. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer's can experience enhanced fear when a family member is out of sight. And the resulting behaviors can be extremely hard to manage: crying, anger and meanness, or continuously asking where you are.

It can help to understand the reasoning behind shadowing. You are the older adult's safe place, the one who tends to make sense of a disorienting and confusing world, and when you’re absent, life can seem frightening and uncertain. And recognize that shadowing isn’t a result of anything you have done, it is merely a typical aspect of the advancement of Alzheimer's disease.

Our Windsor-Essex dementia care team provides the

  1. Expand the older adult's circle of trust. Having a friend or two with you while you go through the older adult's daily routines will help him/her start to trust a person other than yourself. Little by little, once that trust is in place, the senior will become more at ease when you need to step away, knowing there is still a lifeline readily available.
  2. Record yourself. Make a video of yourself doing dishes or taking care of other weekly chores, reading aloud, singing, etc. and try playing it for the older adult. This digital substitution might be all that’s needed to provide a feeling of comfort while she or he is apart from you.
  3. Utilize distractions. Finding a soothing activity for the older adult to take part in might be enough of a distraction to permit you a brief period of respite. Try repetitive tasks, for example, sorting silverware or nuts and bolts, filing papers, folding napkins, or anything else that is safe and of interest to your loved one.
  4. Avoid conflict. Your loved one may become combative or angry in an effort to express his/her fear of being alone. No matter what he or she may say, it is important to try to avoid arguing with or correcting the senior. An appropriate response is to validate the senior's feelings (“I can see you’re feeling upset,”) and redirect the conversation to a more pleasant topic (“Would you like to try a piece of the bread we made this afternoon?”)
  5. Clarify the separation period. Because the sense of time is generally lost in those diagnosed with Alzheimer's, telling the senior you’ll just be away for one minute might not mean very much. Try using a standard wind-up kitchen timer for brief separations. Set the timer for the amount of time you’ll be away and ask your senior loved one to hold onto it, explaining that when it dings, you’ll be back.

Hiring the services of a highly trained dementia care provider who knows the nuances of dementia and can implement creative strategies such as these can help restore peace to both you and the senior you love. The dementia caregivers at Amy’s Helping Hands are fully trained and available to fill in whenever you need a helping hand. Give us a call at 519.915.4370 for an in-home consultation for additional information about our Windsor-Essex dementia care.