Trailing and checking

A person with dementia may follow their carer around, check that they are nearby, repeatedly call out or ask for people, or ask to go home when they are already there.

Trailing and checking can be frustrating and tiring for carers. It can also be upsetting for the person with dementia.

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 shadow carers and constantly seek reassurance that they are not alone. They may also have forgotten where the carer is and follow them as a means of checking they are still there.

Trailing and checking may also indicate another underlying need. For example, if a person with dementia is asking for parents who have died, or asking to go home when they are actually in their home, it may reflect a need to feel secure and safe.

It is important to address the underlying emotion and need behind what the person is asking for. Confronting them with the truth might not help, and may make the person feel more upset and distressed.

Trailing and checking: tips for carers

  • Respond to the emotion behind what the person is doing, saying or asking for.
  • If you need to do something it may help to have the person with you, as your physical presence may be reassuring, eg do the ironing in the front 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. It 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. Avoid harsh facts that may cause distress.

Further reading