Preventing Senior Shadowing

Preventing Senior Shadowing

time icon 3 min read update icon Nov. 26, 2019


Many seniors live in constant fear of being left alone. This unpleasant emotion often causes the senior to start shadowing their grown children or caregivers. Shadowing is a term used to explain when a senior follow someone around.


Fear often causes seniors to develop attachment issues. Shadowing is usually more pronounced in seniors who are suffering from varying degrees of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It is a prevalent and challenging condition that is often difficult for a caregiver to handle. The senior will follow the caregiver around the house and become very upset when they lose sight of the person.

In some cases, the elderly individual may not only trail the caregiver from room to room but even start mimicking whatever action the caregiver performs. This is often very unsettling for the caregiver. Shadowing often becomes worse in the afternoon or evening hours, which is the time of day that many dementia patients start to become anxious or afraid.

Controlling Senior Shadowing

Senior shadowing is not easy to prevent or control. When an elderly person starts shadowing, there are ways to handle the situation.

  • Offer Reassurance: Continually let the senior know that they are safe and that everything is okay. Phrases such as, “I love you,” and “I’m here for you,” often relax the senior and stop the shadowing behavior for a while.
  • Routine: Many seniors find comfort from maintaining a daily routine. If you break the habit, the senior may again become fearful and return to their shadowing behavior.
  • Make a Recording: Have a friend or loved one make a voice recording that offers reassurance and perhaps tells a story to the senior. When you do not want the senior shadowing you, you can put on the tape to calm the person.
  • Egg Timer: Everyone needs time alone. If you need to duck away from shadowing senior to go to the bathroom or take care of some other chore, then you can set an egg timer and let the aging individual know that you will return as soon as the timer runs out of time. The timer can make the senior wait quietly and stop shadowing during critical activities throughout the day.

Unfortunately, shadowing is challenging behavior to prevent. You can try the various activities outlined here to see if they reduce the senior's anxiety levels. If you just cannot handle the shadowing behavior every day, then you may be forced to hire a relief caregiver to watch the senior while you take a much-needed break.

Kimberly Sharpe - Senior Advisor

Kimberly is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.