Clinging and following
Changes in behaviour
There were times when I found it very hard indeed. She would follow me around everywhere, driving my patience to its limits. My only escape was to lock myself in the bathroom sometimes to read the paper. But now she goes to the day centre, which she loves, and I get two days a week to myself.
If the person with dementia clings to you and follows you around it can drive you to the limits of your patience. Not only does the person require your constant attention, but you are also deprived of even a moment’s privacy. Moreover, it can be difficult to relax when you sense that the person is waiting for your next move. As you will see from the chapter on anxiety and fear, the person with dementia is living in a world where nothing makes sense any more and where anything could happen. It is therefore not surprising that they don’t want to let you out of their sight. You may be the only stable feature in what has become a constantly changing world. Nevertheless, it is important that you try to do something about this, before it starts to wear you down and also to help the person with dementia feel more secure.
How to cope with clinging and following
Reassure the person with dementia that you will return
The person with dementia needs reassurance that you will return and when you will return in terms that they can understand. Unfortunately, people with dementia may have a distorted sense of time and they might not understand what you mean or think that five minutes is like five hours. (Please see chapter on disorientation.)
Arrange for someone to sit with the person with dementia whilst you are gone
It can be difficult to explain when you will be back, or to get the person with dementia to stay in another room while you have a moment to yourself. However, you will probably find that, if you can find someone in whom the person with dementia has confidence, they will be more likely to let you go without trying to follow you. You should not feel guilty or selfish about doing this. You are entitled to some time on your own and should try to make sure that you get it. Not everyone has access to a day centre, but you might find that friends or neighbours are happy to drop in from time to time to help you out. They might just need to be asked.
Find something to occupy the person with dementia
Finding a simple task that the person with dementia can do is one way to keep them occupied and make them less likely to follow you around. It does not have to be a task that really needs doing, nor does it have to be done well. The main aim is to distract their attention from worrying about you being absent for a while, so that you can get on with what you want to do unhindered. If the problem persists and you feel that the person with dementia might be afraid, contact your doctor as he or she might be able to help.
Last Updated: Monday 10 August 2009