What is Shadowing…
Shadowing is a behavior often seen in the later stages of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. To many care-givers, shadowing is the most intrusive of all the symptoms and behaviors of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
The person with Alzheimer’s or dementia literally becomes your perpetual “shadow”. They follow their caregiver’s every movement for every waking moment. It does not sound as disturbing as it actually becomes for the caregiver.
If you turn around quickly, you bump into them. If they aren’t a sound sleeper, they may be peering down at you when you awake. They tip-toe lightly and peer around corners, to always keep the caregiver in sight. They watch while you sleep, and follow close on your heels when you think they are no where around.
By the time “shadowing” begins, the person with dementia is far into the disease process and quite dependent on the Caregiver. Just as a small child tends to keep the parent in-sight at all times, the person with later stage dementia feels the same dependency on their caregiver.
The person with dementia recognizes their caregiver as someone who has their well-being at heart. The caregiver provides what they need on a daily basis; food, clothing, bathing, exercise, music perhaps. Their every necessity of life now comes from the Caregiver.
By this late stage of their disease, the person with dementia may feel totally dependent on the caregiver and they want the caregiver in-sight at all times.
- The caregiver tends to their everyday existence, feeding them by hand if necessary
- The caregiver showers them and prepares their clothing, making certain it’s appropriate for the season
- The caregiver is the center of their world, their provider and caretaker
So, they see the Caregiver as their lifeline. It’s similar to the relationship and dependence that a small child would feel for a parent. I don’t pretend to know what they’re thinking, but they “shadow” every movement of the caregiver as a small child does a parent.
As this behavior worsened for Mom and Me, we were eventually forced to put locks on our bedroom door. I never thought my Mom would harm me, but it was very frightening to open my eyes from a deep sleep in the middle of the night to have Mom’s eyes peering down at me only inches from my nose. It isn’t a warm feeling of love but more a cold stare given to a stranger. She would stand over my bed and watch me, silently. I could only wish I knew what she was thinking. Much like “sundowners,” though, these incidents generally occurred at night and were never mentioned nor remembered by Mom the next morning.
As the description states: Shadowing is the Alzheimer’s or Dementia sufferer’s attempt to keep the caregiver in sight at all times. No matter where the caregiver travels inside the home, the patient is fast on their heels, waiting outside the bathroom door, peering down at the them as they sleep, creeping softly behind them so not to disturb.
There are numerous behaviors by those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia that have a negative affect on the caregiver; shadowing, sundowning, the lack of hygiene. All we can do under these circumstances is to persevere and remind ourselves that the person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia has no idea what is happening to them.
Most of their days are spent in a confining fear. I can remember Mom’s eyes even now, years later. She was always afraid and complained of being alone all the time, yet she had many family members visit on a regular schedule. Looking back, the small nuisance of shadowing or pleading with Mom to shower leaves only a tiny dot on my memory compared to all the pleasurable times Mom and I enjoyed in those last few years.
Alzheimer’s: Dementia: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention, Treatment, CareA Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia: Using Activities and Other Strategies to Prevent, Reduce and Manage Behavioral SymptomsUltimate Word Find Puzzle Book-Vol. 191Happy Grandma’s Word Search Books: Volume 37
Are you coping with “shadowing” from your loved one with dementia?
How are you coping? Did this article help with understanding Shadowing?