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The Velcro Spouse was started as a discussion topic on the Message Boards on Tuesday (1/13/09). I loved the title and knew I would use it as a blog.

When discussing the Velcro Spouse, or “shadowing”, as it is commonly known, it helps to know WHY your AD spouse is sticking to you like glue. Although this has been covered before, it is important to understand that those afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease go through all of the childhood developmental stages again, but BACKWARDSthis time. To understand “shadowing”, we need to think back to when our children were young, or if you have not had children, look  up the developmental stages, and learn about that “clinging” stage to which your spouse has regressed.

There is a stage – the age varies – when the toddler will not leave the mother’s side. Mom is their security; their lifeline; their protection against the “unknown” out there in the big, scary world.  In my case, I remember that Joel started to be aware of my presence or lack thereof, at about 4 months old. He cried continually if I left him with a babysitter. When he was 3 years old, and I dropped him off at pre-school for the first of his two days a week, he spent the entire 3 hours sitting by the window crying for me. And he kept it up every day that I left him there. He finally outgrew that stage at age 4. By the time he got on the kindergarten bus at age 5, he didn’t even look back to see me waving.

Our Alzheimer spouses start out as fully functioning adults, but they slowly regress through all of the developmental stages, and “shadowing” is one of them.  Just like the mother, you (women AND men caregivers) are their security.

They are beginning to fear the unknown  (unknown because they cannot remember it), and they cling to the one who cares for them. It is extremely annoying and claustrophobic when it is an adult who is stuck to you like Velcro, but it is because they are frightened and uncertain.

As all of the stages children go through, this too, shall pass. Unfortunately, it passes to the next stage back, rather than forward, which is usually a more “unaware” stage.

My husband is not at this point, so I have not had to deal with it. Although he does not like for me to be away for more than a few hours. I am sure when he gets to the Velcro stage, I will probably not be very patient. I can imagine it driving me crazy.

For more information, please click here for the blog on childlike behavior. There is even a name for this phenomenon. It is “Retrogenesis”, a term coined by Dr. Barry Reisberg.

Please post comments under the existing message board topic – The Velcro Spouse.

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