Maria had been a family caregiver to her 83-year-old mother since she was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago. Her mother, Eva, had recently begun following her around the house. It got so bad that Maria could scarcely go to the bathroom on her own. Even when she locked the door, she could hear Eva rattling the knob as though trying to come in. Maria didn’t mind having her mother nearby but being unable to turn around without bumping into her was becoming frustrating. When she mentioned it to Eva’s doctor, he told her that Eva’s behavior was a common one for people with dementia called shadowing.
If you’re a family caregiver to an older adult with dementia, you may experience shadowing in your aging relative. Knowing what causes the behavior and how to deal with it might make it less frustrating when it occurs.
Why Shadowing Happens
You may notice shadowing happening more often at night. Seniors who shadow follow their caregivers around, sometimes constantly talking or asking questions. They can become agitated if the caregiver moves out of their sight. Experts believe that shadowing is born out of anxiety. As they become more confused and uncertain of the world around them, their caregiver can feel like the only familiar thing in their lives.
Tips for Managing Shadowing
If you’re frustrated by your aging relative’s shadowing, there are some things you can do to lessen the behavior or at least give yourself a break from it. Below are some tips for managing the behavior:
- Remember that the older adult is feeling anxious and frighten. Instead of reacting out of irritation, try to react out of compassion. Reassure them that they are safe. Speak in a soothing tone and offer a gentle touch to the hand or arm.
- Distract the older adult with an activity, such as playing a game they enjoy or putting on a favorite movie or television show. It can also help to give them a simple task to do because it helps them to feel useful and relieves boredom.
- Try using a timer to let the older adult know when you’ll be done with something. For example, if you need to take a shower, set the timer for the length of time it will take you. Tell the senior that you will be out of the bathroom when the timer goes off.
One way for caregivers to get a break from challenging behaviors like shadowing is to contact a home care agency to hire some help. A home care provider can spend some time with the older adult while you take a break. Having a break from being a caregiver can allow you to return to the responsibility feeling refreshed.
If you or an aging loved one are considering caregivers in Princeton, NJ, please call the caring staff at Care Street Home Care. You can reach our Mercer/Burlington Division at (609) 496-5666.
Dr. Shelly, as he is fondly known, has served as an Alzheimer’s Support Group Facilitator in Mercer County and is a Certified Dementia Instructor. Knowledgeable, compassionate, and unusually devoted, his guidance is crucial in helping families understand their options and render decisions for their loved ones’ care plan. Dr. Shelly’s extensive experience, sincere and pleasant demeanor, and professional affiliations have made him a vital asset to Care Street.
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