Q: My mother with dementia is "my shadow." How do I get her to stop following me all day long?
A: As Carl Jung says, "we begin healing our lives when we ask our shadow to lunch." But I assume you have done that many times.
Dementia, much like any chronic illness that involves the mind is a bio-psycho-social phenomenon. What that means is that as a loved one's dementia progresses, we need to make sure that all three legs of "the stool" are attended to.
In the case of your Mom following you all day long, it appears that she is progressing and you may need respite. Her primary care doctor, neurologist or geriatrician should see her and if she is cognitively capable, get her involved with a well-trained therapist specializing in geriatric health.
But I suspect it is the third leg of the stool, the social, needing attention here. Mom will follow you until there is an alternative that she feels is more meaningful. Hence, it may be what she is saying with this behavior is "I am alone, scared and have no social support systems other than you."
Often as caregivers, we believe it is about us when it really is about the caree connecting to a milieu or program; or even a support group, if capable, where they can feel connected, valued and safe. I would call around in your area to the Alzheimer's Association or other specialized organization that attends specifically to your Mom's particular condition. There are day programs and drop in centers not to mention ways to involve other family members, whether they be biologically or ‘by choice" in her life.
Being "the shadow" is a burden no one wants. It does not help her mental health or yours. It certainly does not help your self-esteem or hers. Both of you may need safe places to begin finding your own authentic shadows in the "caregiving-caree process."
Start making those calls today!
Dr. James Huysman co-founded the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and co-authored "Take Your Oxygen First. Protecting Your Health and Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss." Read his full biography .