Primary caregivers for those with dementia are frequently all too familiar with the complications experienced in trying to take a quiet moment or two alone – to use the bathroom, get a quick shower, and even step into another room. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can experience enhanced fear when a family member is out of sight – a condition known as shadowing. And the ensuing behaviors can be extremely challenging to manage: crying, meanness and anger, or continuously asking where you are.
It can help to understand the reasoning behind shadowing. You are the older adult’s safe place, the main one who helps make sense of a disorienting and confusing world, so when you’re gone, life can feel frightening and uncertain. And keep in mind that shadowing isn’t a result of anything you have done; it is simply a natural part of the progression of dementia.
Generations at Home offers the following dementia caregiver tips that can help:
- Expand the senior’s circle of trust. Having another person or two with you while you go through the senior’s daily routines might help him/her begin to trust someone aside from yourself. Slowly, once that trust is in place, the senior will become more at ease when you need to step away, knowing there’s still a lifeline readily available.
- Record yourself. Make a video of yourself doing laundry or taking care of other day-to-day chores, reading aloud, singing, etc. and try playing it for the senior. This digital substitution may be all that’s needed to provide a feeling of comfort while he or she is apart from you.
- Take advantage of distractions. Finding a soothing activity for the senior to engage in could be enough of a distraction to permit you a brief time period of respite. Try repetitive tasks, such as sorting silverware or nuts and bolts, folding napkins, filing papers, or anything else that is safe and of interest to the senior.
- Avoid conflict. Your senior loved one may become combative or angry as a way to express his or her fear of being alone. No matter what he or she may say, it is imperative that you keep from quarreling with or correcting the senior. An appropriate response is to validate the person’s feelings (“I can see you’re feeling upset,”) and redirect the conversation to a more pleasing topic (“Would you like to try a piece of the cake we made earlier?”)
- Clarify the separation period. Because the sense of time can be lost in individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, telling a senior loved one you’ll just be away for a minute may not mean very much. Try using a common wind-up kitchen timer for brief separations. Set the timer for the amount of time you’ll be away and ask the senior to hold onto it, explaining that when it rings, you’ll be back.
Engaging the services of a highly trained dementia caregiver who understands the nuances of dementia and can put into practice creative techniques such as these can help restore peace to both you and the senior you love. The dementia care professionals at Generations at Home are fully trained and available to fill in whenever you need a helping hand. Give us a call at 727-940-3414 or fill out our online contact form for a free in-home consultation and learn more about how our customized dementia care in Kenneth City and other surrounding areas can help with your particular challenges.