Granddaughter giving a surprise gift to grandmother

As a caregiver, it’s helpful to remember that shadowing is not caused by anything that you’ve done and is a natural part of Alzheimer’s disease.

Primary caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s disease are often all too familiar with the complications experienced in trying to take a quiet moment or two alone – to use the bathroom, get a quick shower, or even walk into another room. Seniors with Alzheimer’s can experience enhanced fear when a member of family is out of sight – a condition known as shadowing. And the resulting behaviors are extremely challenging to manage: crying, meanness and anger, or repeatedly asking where you are

It can help to understand the reasons behind Alzheimer’s related shadowing. You are the senior’s safe place, the main one who makes sense of a disorienting and confusing world, and when you are gone, life can appear uncertain and frightening. And remember that shadowing is not brought on by anything you have done, but is simply a natural aspect of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Our dementia care team provides the following techniques that can help:

Expand the senior’s circle of trust. Having another person or two with you while you go through the senior’s daily routines may help him/her start to trust someone aside from yourself. Slowly but surely, once that trust is in place, the senior will become more at ease when you want to step away, knowing there is still a lifeline available.

  • Record yourself. Make a video of yourself doing laundry or taking care of other daily chores, singing, reading aloud, etc. and try playing it for the senior. This digital substitution may be all that’s needed to provide a feeling of comfort while she or he is separated from you.
  • Utilize distractions. Finding a soothing activity for the senior to take part in might be enough of a distraction to permit you a short period of respite. Try repetitive tasks, such as sorting silverware or nuts and bolts, filing papers, folding napkins, or anything else that is safe and of interest to the senior.
  • Refrain from conflict. Your senior loved one could become combative or angry as a way to express his or her fear of being alone. No matter what she or he may say, it is important that you refrain from arguing with or correcting your loved one. An appropriate response is to validate the senior’s feelings (“I can see you’re feeling upset,”) and refocus the conversation to a much more pleasant topic (“Would you like to try a piece of the cake we made this morning?”)
  • Make the separation period clearer. Because the sense of time is usually lost in individuals with Alzheimer’s, telling the senior you’ll just be away for one minute might not mean very much. Try using a common wind-up kitchen timer for brief separations. Set the timer for the amount of time you’ll be away and ask the senior to hold onto it, explaining that when it rings, you will be back.

Hiring the services of a skilled dementia caregiver who knows the nuances of dementia and can put into action creative techniques such as these can help restore peace to both you and the senior you love. The dementia caregivers at Atlanta Home Care Partners are fully trained and here to fill in whenever you need a helping hand. For Atlanta Alzheimer’s care services and services in the surrounding areas, contact us at 404-228-0103 for a free in-home consultation to learn more.