Shadowing is the act of an Alzheimer’s or dementia victim attempting to keep his or her caregiver in sight at all times.
In caring for my father, there were times when I didn’t even have to turn around. I could feel the warmth of my father’s breath heating up the back of my neck. He would constantly follow me around like a small child, clinging to a mother’s dress.
Even if I left him with a respite caregiver for an hour or two, he would perpetually ask where I was, sometimes more than twenty times in a half hour. This could obviously drive the person staying with him almost to the point of madness. This behavior began right around the same time he began showing signs of sundowners (Sundown Syndrome).
There is a lot of fear involved for someone who is suffering from being memory-impaired. I always kind of analyzed it like this; if you went to the mall to do some shopping and, when walking outside, you suddenly realize you have no idea where you parked your car, well, the wave of anxiety washing over you is terrifying and paralyzing. In a similar way a persons living with Alzheimer’s experience this all day long. They finally get to a stage where they just don’t feel safe alone anymore. I’ve always stated, “Controlling their anxiety is half the battle.”
Their primary caregiver becomes a security blanket, a lifeline, the center of their world and they want to always be with them, following them everywhere, and I mean everywhere! Bathrooms included. Sometimes even mimicking them. It becomes really unsettling and extremely tiresome.
When this conduct begins, try to recognize what time of day it happens the most. This will give you a notion of when to find a repetitious activity to keep them entertained. Consider asking them to fold a basket of clothes or work on a hobby they always loved such as a jig saw puzzle or playing Solitaire.
If the person is still able to chew and swallow you might want to try something referred to as “Gum Therapy.” It’s worth a try. A single stick of chewing gum might land you a peaceful thirty minutes.
Also, I can’t tell you how many times I woke up to find my dad just staring at me, watching me sleep or actually waking me up just to ask if I was sleeping.
Shadowing is just one of the myriads of symptoms Alzheimer’s victims go through, but for the caregiver it can definitely be one of the more unnerving ones.