Mom's expression of frustration in the Feeling the Stress post describes the dementia symptom called Shadowing.

Shadowing is when the individual with dementia follows their primary care giver around like a small or child follows their parent.  They may mimic the care giver or talk to them.  They may ask them extensive questions or get upset if the care giver tries to be alone.  Angela Lunde, Mayo clinic health education outreach coordinator, suggests that this behavior is a result of fear and insecurity.  The individual with dementia has difficulty determining where they are and what they are supposed to be doing.  A challenging part of the shadowing behavior is that the individual may not be able to express their anxiety verbally.  They may not even be able to break it down enough to be able to ask "What am I supposed to do now?"  As a result, they may be seeking those answers from the care giver because the care giver is a consistent part of daily life.

Suggestions for dealing with this stage, which too shall pass, includes such techniques as keeping the individual busy, giving them a bowl of low-fat cereal to nibble on or giving them lots of verbal reassurances that they are safe and you are there.  Some specific suggestions from the links above include:

  • If you need to step away for a few minutes, give the individual a timer saying that you will be back when the timer buzzes.  
  • If the individual with dementia says they want to go home, even if they are home, drive them around the block and return home.
  • If you are interrupted in the bathroom, add child-proof knobs to the bathroom.
  • Observe to see if the shadowing increases at a particular time of day.  If it does, get the person involved in a repetitious activity prior to the time as a way to distract them.

Additional Information Sources:
Alzheimer's Me and My Shadowing
Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation: Shadowing


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