An older man who is struggling with shadowing in dementia is comforted by his wife.

Following in Your Footsteps: How to Overcome Shadowing in Dementia

Primary caregivers supporting individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often face the challenge of finding a quiet moment for themselves—whether it’s a brief bathroom break, a quick shower, or just stepping into another room. Dealing with a phenomenon known as shadowing in dementia adds an extra layer of complexity to these moments of respite. Shadowing occurs when those with Alzheimer’s experience heightened anxiety when their caregiver is out of sight, resulting in behaviors that can be difficult to manage, such as crying, anger, or repeated inquiries about your whereabouts.

Understanding Why Shadowing Happens in Alzheimer’s

It’s crucial to understand the rationale behind shadowing. As the caregiver, you represent a safe haven, offering clarity in a disorienting world. When you’re absent, life may seem frightening and uncertain. Importantly, shadowing is not a result of anything you’ve done or failed to do; rather, it’s a common aspect of dementia progression.

Effective Strategies to Handle Shadowing

Our dementia care team recommends employing the following strategies to navigate shadowing in dementia successfully:

Expand the Circle of Trust:

Introduce friends into the individual’s routine to broaden their circle of trust. As trust grows, the person may feel more at ease when you need to step away, knowing there is additional support available.

Provide a Sense of Time:

Given the frequent loss of the sense of time in individuals with dementia, conveying that you’ll be away for a few minutes may not register. Use a standard kitchen timer set for the duration of your absence, explaining that when it chimes, you’ll return.

Avoid Conflict:

Understand that the person with dementia may express anxiety through anger or combativeness. Instead of arguing, validate their feelings and redirect the conversation to a calming topic.

Incorporate Distractions:

Engage the person in a soothing activity to provide a distraction during your brief respite. Tasks like sorting silverware, folding napkins, or other safe and interesting activities can be beneficial.

Make a Recording of Yourself:

Create a video of yourself performing routine tasks or engaging in comforting activities. Playing this video can offer a sense of comfort while you are temporarily separated.

In addition to these strategies, enlisting the assistance of a knowledgeable dementia caregiver, such as those at Senior HomeCare of Tucson, can make a significant difference. Our trained professionals implement creative approaches to bring peace to both you and the person you love with dementia, easing the effects of shadowing as well as many other challenges associated with Alzheimer’s disease, such as:

  • Wandering
  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • And many more

To learn more about our award-winning in-home dementia care services in Oro Valley, Tucson, Catalina, and the surrounding areas, reach out to us any time at (520) 355-4787.

Scroll to Top