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What Is the Best Way to Handle Shadowing in Dementia Patients?

December 6th, 2017

By: Linda Kunicki

Having someone follow you around the house, no matter where you go or what you’re doing, can be frustrating. Yet, the behavior is common in people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. When a dementia patient follows their caregiver around, it’s called shadowing. Shadowing is one of the more common and challenging behaviors associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but it can be managed by employing some strategies.

Understanding Shadowing
When a senior with dementia shadows their caregiver, they follow them around the house and may become anxious or agitated if the caregiver gets out of their sight. They might also mimic the actions of the caregiver. The behavior can be particularly annoying because it might leave you feel like you’re being smothered and can’t get a moment of peace.

Experts believe that fear is the driving emotion behind shadowing. The dementia patient might be feeling uncertain or frightened, so having someone they are comfortable with in sight makes them feel better. Sometimes the behavior gets worse in the afternoon and evening hours, which is a typical time of the day for those with dementia to experience more anxiety. 

Tips for Handling Shadowing
When your aging family member is shadowing, there are several things you can do to try to lessen the behavior. There are also some strategies that are aimed at preventing the behavior from occurring. Some things to try are:

  • Reassure the Person: Throughout the day, remind the older adult that they are safe. Repeat phrases like, “Everything is okay,” “I’m here to help you,” “It’s good that you are here,” and “I love you” throughout the day. 
  • Routine: Establishing and maintaining a routine brings structure to the life of a person with dementia. A routine helps them to know what comes next and may reduce anxiety.
  • Egg Timer: If you’re having trouble even getting time alone in the bathroom, try using an egg timer. Set the timer and tell the person that you will come out when the timer goes off. Let the senior hold the egg timer and watch it count down.
  • Make a Tape: An audio or video recording of a person or people the dementia patient trusts can help reduce the behavior by providing comfort. Ask family members and friends to record familiar stories and reminiscences, then play the tape when you need time to get something done.

While not all strategies will work for all people, it’s good to try different things until you find something that works. Another way that family caregivers can cope with shadowing is to hire an elder care provider to come to the senior’s home to care for them while family caregivers take some time off. Having an elder care provider can allow you to get away to do the things you enjoy or spend time with others, knowing that your loved one is safe. Elder care providers can also assist with tasks around the house, which can also free up more time for family caregivers.

Sources
https://www.verywell.com/shadowing-in-alzheimers-97620
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-blog/shadowing-and-
alzheimers/bgp-20055944

https://www.alzinfo.org/pym/feature/shadowing-2/

IF YOU OR AN AGING LOVED-ONE ARE CONSIDERING IN-HOME ELDER CARE IN BERWYN, IL, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT BRIGHTSTAR CARE OF LA GRANGE. CALL TODAY 708-551-2500.