What do you do when these strange Alzheimers behaviors interrupt your life?
“I feel like I have a chain around my neck. Dad can not let me have one moment of peace. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Dad. He has always been there for me. And I want to be there for him. But I need some space. A little me time would be great. Heck, just being able to go to the bathroom without him hanging outside the door making noises would be a treat right now” Carol- A Boomer caring for her dad with Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s no wonder that Carol was frustrated.
We all need a little peace and quiet and some personal space from time to time. Shadowing is a common behavior in patients with Alzheimers or Dementia. The person with Alzheimer’s becomes obsessed with keeping their caregiver in sight at all times. And they become anxious when separated. This is commonly referred to as shadowing. Even trying to get a couple of minutes alone time to go to the bathroom can be a huge challenge.
How can a caregiver handle shadowing behavior without losing their own mind?
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 nuts!
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. This is a short fix for an immediate problem.
But You Need To Do More
Getting your loved one involved in meaningful activities, like folding clothes or work on a jigsaw puzzle. And remember it is not about doing everything correctly. If the clothes are not perfectly folded you have to let go of your expectation. This is about giving your loved one a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Maybe mom can set the table or toss the salad. If Dad 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. And 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.
And It May Be Time to Consider Placement.
Placing your loved one in a memory care home will help you both succeed. You will get to be their child again. And mom or dad will be in an environment where they are stimulated daily. Caregivers who are trained in dementia behaviors are able to bring out the best in the residents who live in these homes.
Sycamore Creek Ranch 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.