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If your family member or friend is living with dementia, you might notice they closely follow you around or “shadow” you.

Often, this is a result of some form of anxiety. The person may feel they are unsafe or uncomfortable in their environment. However, this may leave you with no privacy or space.

What you can do

While shadowing isn’t meant to upset you, it can be challenging to deal with.

These are some tips to help:

  • Try to get to the bottom of why the person behaves this way. Do they feel unsafe? Are they unsure of what to do next?
  • It can be hard, but try to avoid showing your irritation. Reacting is likely to make the person feel even less safe.
  • If it’s appropriate, hug or gently touch the person to reassure them. Physical contact can let them know they are safe and loved.
  • Plan your daily routine so the person knows what to expect. Consider displaying the day’s activities on a noticeboard.
  • Take a break by doing an activity you both enjoy, like going for a walk or listening to music.

There are also some things you can do to look after yourself:

  • Share the care with other people. This can give you time and space away from the person living with dementia. It will also help the person get used to you not always being there.
  • Take time for yourself when things feel overwhelming. Walk around the block, visit a neighbour, or find a room where you can be alone.

It’s okay to take care of your own health and happiness. If you're struggling as someone who cares for a person with dementia, contact the free, confidential National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500, any time of the day or night, for information, advice and support.

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Last updated
15 December 2023