Shadowing- A Dementia Behavior
Families who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia may have experienced Shadowing. This is a dementia behavior that is actually quite common. Your dad, mom, spouse or someone else you care for may follow you everywhere. It can be quite annoying especially to the caregiver who is used to having some alone time.
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.
“My Dad is a super sweet man and I love him dearly but I am going to pull my hair out”, Sheila told me. She went on to tell me that her dad follows her everywhere, even standing outside the bathroom door making noises until she comes out.
Likewise, Dan who cares for his wife also experienced this issue. His wife, Monica has Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Lately”, he told me, “She will not let me out of her sight. She even opens the shower door to watch me. The other day she tried to climb into the shower with me. And she had all of her clothes on!”
It’s no wonder that Sheila and Dan are frustrated.
After all, everyone needs a little peace and quiet. And having personal space from time to time helps a caregiver to replenish their energy. It doesn’t help to know that shadowing is common in patients with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The caregiver simply wants it to stop.
Emotions Run High
“I got frustrated with Monica the other day and yelled at her. The look on her face was horrible. I felt so guilty and ashamed. After all, she doesn’t know that she is doing anything wrong. However, If I don’t get some relief soon, I am afraid I will explode! And on top of it all, Monica became very anxious after my outburst. It certainly didn’t help the situation. In fact, she clung to me even more!”
Everyone Needs A Break Sometime
Dan isn’t alone. It is critical that family caregivers get a break. The good news is Interfaith Care Partners offers a day respite program for families. The Gathering is a program designed to provide a half daycare at a local church for someone with dementia. There are plenty of planned activities and each resident is paired with one or two volunteers.
The family caregiver can then take a few hours for themselves to run errands, get a massage or read a book. It allows them time for whatever they want or need to do to care for themselves. There are several locations in Spring and The Woodlands. And the great news is there is no cost associated with this service. It is run by volunteers.
So in between these programs, 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. Accept these small blessings and find a grateful heart.
Get Mom Involved
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.
“Mom loved to cook. She was a homemaker and enjoyed setting a pretty table. So, I would give her bowls of stuff to stir, encouraging her to stir a long time so there aren’t any lumps. Then I would praise the good job she did. I would also tell her to set the table. I would put everything out for her and then let her do it. Some days she might set that table 8 or 10 times. LOL” Jayne
What Did Your Parent Do When They Were Younger?
Someone who used to work in an office may like to file things in a filing cabinet. Give them a stack of papers and ask if they can file them for you. Then praise them for the good job they did.
Likewise, 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.
A Sense of Belonging
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 in relieving the anxiety that may cause 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. After all, wouldn’t you rather be cared for by a happy person than someone who is tired and frustrated?
Take advantage of the Gathering (see above). If you can afford to hire a caregiver to come 2 or 3 days a week (more if you can) do so. Nobody ever said that you had to do it all. Being a good caregiver means making the best decisions.
There are also some Day Care programs that are affordable and can give you that much-needed break. Sarah Care in The Woodlands is one of those places.
Dealing with dementia means you have to learn to accept. You have to accept the fact that you will not always have control over what is happening. And you need to accept the fact that the time may come when you are no longer able to care for your loved one. Start looking now. Know where you want to go when the time comes.
Learn about our Hand-In-Hand© Care Program