Why People with Dementia Follow Their Caregivers Around?

Dementia is a challenging journey, not just for those who have it but also for their caregivers. Many of us have experienced situations where a family member with dementia follows us around, sometimes to the point of feeling like our shadow. This behavior, known as “shadowing,” can be both endearing and perplexing. In this blog post, I will share the reasons behind why people with dementia follow their caregivers, and I will also discuss practical strategies for handling this situation.

The Unending Pursuit of Security

Dementia patients need security for safety

Imagine stepping outside for a moment of fresh air, believing you’re alone. However, as you turn around, there they are, your family member with dementia, right behind you. It’s not uncommon for people with dementia to shadow their caregivers like children. But why does this happen?

People with dementia often shadow their caregivers because they seek a sense of security. The world around them can be confusing and disorienting, and they find comfort in being close to someone they trust. Just as children cling to their parents for safety, individuals with dementia gravitate toward their caregivers for the same reason.

The Need for Reassurance

It can be a bit unnerving when you notice that your loved one always knows where you are in the house. Whether you’re cooking, cleaning, or simply sitting down, they want to be by your side. But, is it more than just following you around?

Absolutely. People with dementia often feel lost in their environment. They might not remember the layout of their home or recognize familiar objects. By being close to you, they seek reassurance that they’re not alone in this confusing world. Your presence becomes a comforting anchor amidst the sea of their uncertainty.

The Quest for Guidance

People with dementia often look at the ceiling or around the room

One peculiar aspect of shadowing is the way people with dementia look at the ceiling or scan their surroundings. They might appear as if they’re searching for something, and this can sometimes be startling.

This behavior stems from their need for direction in life. Dementia can make even simple tasks seem complex. By observing their environment or scanning around, they might be trying to figure out where they are, what they should do, or what’s expected of them. Being near you provides them with a source of guidance and a reference point.

Eager Helpers

People with dementia often really want to help

You might have noticed that your loved one wants to help you with your daily tasks, even if their assistance isn’t always necessary. This eagerness to be of assistance is another facet of shadowing.

People with dementia often feel a strong desire to be useful, just as they were in their prime. By being involved in your activities, they might find a sense of purpose. Encouraging them to help, even in simple ways, can boost their self-esteem and make them feel valuable.

Fear of Abandonment

Dementia can make people really scared that you'll abandon them

Dementia can blur the lines between past and present. Your loved one may have a deep-seated fear that you’ll leave them alone forever, much like a child’s fear of abandonment.

The fear of abandonment can be a powerful motivator for shadowing behavior. They want to ensure that you won’t disappear when they turn around, and being close to you helps to alleviate this fear. Reassurance is essential in these moments.

Practical Strategies for Coping

Now that we understand the reasons behind shadowing, let’s discuss some practical strategies to cope with this behavior.

Give Them a Task

Providing a simple task like reading a book, playing with a toy, or watching TV can engage their attention and make them feel like they’re doing something that a family member would normally do.

Chores as Distraction

When they feel lost or anxious, guide them to activities like cleaning, folding clothes, or knitting. These familiar tasks can provide a sense of purpose and keep them occupied.

Teach Meditation

Teaching them simple meditation techniques can help calm their restlessness. Breathing exercises and mindfulness can be particularly effective.

Positive Reinforcement

Even when they make mistakes or forget things, remember to praise them. Acknowledging their efforts and telling them they did a great job can boost their self-esteem.

Seek Help from Family

Communicate with other family members about this behavior. Ask them to keep an eye on your loved one when needed so that you can tend to your own needs, like running errands or taking a moment for yourself.


Shadowing can be both heartwarming and challenging for caregivers of individuals with dementia. We must remember that our loved ones follow us around because they need our support, reassurance, and guidance. Understanding the underlying reasons for this behavior is the first step in providing the care and comfort they require.

As we continue to care for our loved ones with dementia, let’s be patient, compassionate, and creative in finding ways to make them feel secure and valued. Each day may bring new challenges, but with the right approach, we can make this journey more manageable and meaningful for both them and us.

So, what strategies have you found helpful in dealing with shadowing behavior? Have you witnessed any unique or heartwarming moments during your caregiving journey? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

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