caregiver concerned about Alzheimer's man

Primary caregivers for people with dementia are usually all too familiar with the difficulty of trying to take a quiet minute or two alone – to use the bathroom, get a quick shower, or even just walk into another room. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can experience enhanced fear when a family caregiver is out of sight – a condition known as shadowing. And without understanding how to overcome Alzheimer’s shadowing, the resulting behaviors are particularly hard to manage: anger, repeatedly asking where you are, crying, or meanness.

Why Does Shadowing Occur in Alzheimer’s?

It might help to understand the reasoning behind shadowing. You’re the person’s safe place, the one who helps to make sense of a confusing and disorienting world, and when you’re away, life can seem frightening and uncertain. And understand that shadowing is not a result of anything you have done (or not done). It’s a normal part of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Our Alzheimer’s caregivers suggest using the following techniques to help:

  1. Increase the person’s support system. Having another family member or a friend or two with you while you go through the person’s routines can help the individual begin to trust others besides just you. Over time, once that trust is in place, the person will be much more at ease when you need to step away, knowing there is still support readily available.
  2. Provide distractions. Finding a soothing activity for the person to take part in might be enough of a distraction to allow you a short period of respite. Try repetitive tasks, like sorting nuts and bolts or silverware, filing papers, folding napkins, or anything else that is safe and of interest to the person.
  3. Make a recording of yourself. Make a video of yourself folding laundry or tending to other routine chores, reading aloud, singing, etc. and play it for your loved one. This digital replacement may be all that is needed to offer a sense of comfort while they are separated from you.
  4. Refrain from conflict. Your family member may become combative or angry in an attempt to show their nervousness about being alone. Regardless of what they do or say, it is vital to resist quarreling with or correcting the individual. An appropriate reaction is always to validate the person’s feelings (“I can see you feel upset,”) and redirect the discussion to a more calming topic (“Would you like to try a slice of the pie we made this afternoon?”)
  5. Help understand time. Because the sense of time is frequently lost in in people with Alzheimer’s, telling the person you will just be away for a few minutes will most likely not mean very much. Try using a wind-up kitchen timer for short separations. Set the timer for the length of time you will be away and ask your loved one to hold onto it, explaining that when it goes off, you’ll be back.

It is also helpful to engage the services of an experienced dementia caregiver who understands the subtleties of the condition, like those at Morning Glory Home Care. We can implement creative strategies like these to help restore peace to both you and the person you love. All of our caregivers are fully trained and here to fill in whenever you need a helping hand. Call us at 618-667-8400 or contact us online to find out more about our award-winning home care services.