5 Ways to Reduce Alzheimer’s Shadowing
As a caregiver, you may be finding it hard to adjust to your older adult developing Alzheimer’s and their fear of being alone. This fear might cause them to follow you a little more closely or always keep you in their sight.
This behavior is called shadowing. Alzheimer’s shadowing occurs because the disease has caused them to make you the center of the world. They follow you a little more closely to reassure themselves that you are there as you are their connection to the outside world.
Your senior can become anxious or scared if they cannot see or touch you. There is this sense of paranoia that you’ll leave and never come back to them, even if you haven’t done anything to make them think that way.
This fear isn’t caused by anything you’ve done but there are practices you can adapt to that will help you cope with this behavior.
Include other trusted people
The best way to make your senior feel secure is to start expanding their world by introducing them to one or two more people. However, you have to do this slowly and give them time to start trusting the “new” people.
These people can be family members, close friends, or other professional caregivers. You can start by having them come over on a regular schedule while you help them out. Then transition into having the “new” people help out the senior with their daily tasks.
Involve them in repetitive activities when you need to step aside
When you are trying to get to chores around the house and your senior asks if they can help, give them a soothing, repetitive task to occupy their time. This could be something as simple as folding towels, organizing the kitchen drawers, or sorting a pile of forks and spoons.
Distract and redirect
When you need to leave the house for a little, distracting and redirecting is a great technique to try. This would take place when you senior is getting frantic about you leaving.
First, validate what they are saying in a gentle way. Let them know they are okay to feel that way and avoid any bigger fights if you say they are wrong to feel that way. Next, find an activity they can help with around the house to redirect their feelings into that. You may need to practice this a few times until your senior starts to understand.
Make a recording of yourself
Another great way to soothe your senior is to have them listen to a recording of your voice or watch a video you have of yourself. Being able to just see you or hear your voice will provide comfort to them.
Help them understand how long you’ll be gone
For people with Alzheimer’s, their sense of time is not the same. A minute, day, or year does not hold the same value as it would for someone without the disease.
Instead of saying, “I’ll be gone a minute,” try using a timer so they can start to track time. If you are going to the bathroom, set it for five minutes and let them know when the buzzer goes off you’ll be back. This way they can see how long it has been.