Individuals with dementia often have anxiety which can make them feel nervous, worried, or cause them to not want to be left alone or out of sight of their caregivers. This typically happens when dementia causes changes in the brain that make it harder to recognize their caregivers or family, process what is happening around them, feel unsafe in their own home, and not being able to remember what they may have just done. All of these can lead to a feeling of fear in which the individual with dementia may need to check things repeatedly or may not want to be left alone at all.
In some cases, the individual with dementia may pick one caregiver and not want to be out of that person’s sight. When this happens, a person with dementia makes this caregiver the center of his/her universe and will follow the caregiver around like a shadow. If the caregiver walks into another room, the individual with dementia might immediately become anxious and fearful and follow the caregiver wherever he/she goes. It is important to remember that the person with dementia is not doing this to upset the caregiver, but instead to reassure the person with dementia that the caregiver is are still there. Caregivers make persons with dementia feel safe in their confusing world.
There are several things that caregivers can do to help individuals with dementia cope with the anxiety and fear of being left alone. Try to be comforting and reassure them that they are safe. Make eye contact and actively listen to their fears without trying to argue with them. It might be helpful to try and take them for a walk or do something they enjoy as a distraction.
Once the anxiety starts, there are some things caregivers can do to prevent the anxiety from becoming worse. Having a regular routine in place may help reduce some anxiety. It is important to identify any patterns or potential causes of the anxiety and remove the causes of anxiety, if possible. If you see the individual with dementia start to become fearful or anxious, try to intervene and redirect before it gets any worse. Speak in a gentle, calming voice and try relaxing music or aromatherapy. If the anxiety continues, it might be helpful to contact individual with dementia’s doctor and see if there are any medical conditions that could be contributing to the anxiety and consider other possible interventions that may help reduce the anxiety.
It is important for the caregiver to find time in the day to take care of themselves too. If caregivers are stressed or on edge, the individual with dementia could pick up on this and become more anxious. Reach out to family, friends or formal respite options to get a break from caregiving. Possible ways for caregivers to manager stress include deep breathing, regular exercise, healthy eating, and support groups.
The following information was taken from the Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles Caregiver Tip Sheet Anxiety and dailycaring.com/alzheimer’s-fear-of-being-alone-5-ways-for-caregivers-to-cope/