Trailing, following and checking

A person with dementia may follow their carer around, check that they are nearby, or keep calling out or asking for people.

They might ask to go home when they’re already there. This can be frustrating, tiring and upsetting for you and the person.

Living with dementia can make people feel insecure and anxious. They may feel a constant need to be reassured, because the world around them no longer makes sense. This is why they may follow you around and look for reassurance that they are not alone. They may also have forgotten where you are and follow you to check you’re still there.

Trailing and checking may also show the person has other unmet needs. For example, if they are asking for parents who have died, or asking to go home when they are actually in their home, it may show they need to feel secure and safe.

Always try to find out the underlying need behind what the person is asking for, including how they’re feeling. This will help you think about how to meet that need. Just telling them the truth (for instance, that the person they’re asking for has died) might not help, and may make the person feel more upset and distressed.

Trailing and checking – tips for carers

  • Being with the person may reassure them. Keep close to them when you have tasks to carry out. For example, you could do the ironing in the living room while the person listens to the radio.
  • If the person is asking to go ‘home’, try to understand and acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that they are safe. Their need may be more related to a feeling of ‘home’ as a place of safety and security than an actual place.
  • If the person is calling for someone from their past, try talking to them about this period in their life and respond to the feelings the person is showing.
  • Think carefully about whether to tell the person things that may cause them distress, even if they’re true. For example, if the person is asking for their partner after they’ve died, it may be better to comfort them and talk to the person about their partner.

Further reading