One of the most common issues that we are hearing about from caregivers is, “I don’t get a minute to myself. My spouse is following me everywhere.” Or, “I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself.” It is a common behaviour for a person with dementia and is often referred to as shadowing. Shadowing is often an indication of anxiety. When someone is anxious, they frequently seek out comfort and security. Caregivers are often that source of comfort and security for their family member and so it is natural that the person wants to be with their caregiver to reduce that feeling of anxiety.
This behaviour can be difficult to cope with in the best of times, and was made more challenging during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So what can you do? Here are some tips that you can try:
- Respond calmly and gently – If you show your frustration, the person you are caring for will pick up on it and likely become more frustrated and agitated themselves.
- Address the underlying feeling if possible – See if you can figure out why they are anxious – if you can identify the cause, it is easier to find a solution to reduce the anxiety.
- Give the person something like coins or beads to fiddle with – Sometimes having something to keep their hands busy and to focus on will allow you to have a few minutes to yourself.
- Make sure the person gets enough exercise – Try to go out for a walk if possible or play the exercise videos that can be found on the Caregiver’s Corner website to give you a few minutes to yourself while they follow along.
- Change from caffeinated to non-caffeinated drinks.
- Try to find an activity or task that the person is able to do that will hold their interest, including colouring a picture, doing a word search, watching a movie, folding laundry, or sorting different objects. Take a look at our website to see if there are any activities you can try. If you have questions or need some ideas, you can call and speak to one of our recreation specialists to help you out.
- Have a way to escape when things get too much – Take a walk around the block (if it is safe to leave the person on their own) or have a room where you can be alone. Ask a friend or family member for help.
Remember that not everything works for everyone, and what works one day may not work the next. So even if something doesn’t work the first time, try it again another day and it may be more successful. Social work support is available. If you have questions or need support, please contact us.