Take a look at the dots in the box and try and find the black one. Wow, what happened! Optical illusions show us we can’t believe everything we see? People with dementia often see something we don’t, but yet, do we actually see or perceive what others do?
Our brain constructs our reality, and it unconsciously alters our perceptions of what’s there to meet our desires or expectations. We then fill in gaps using our past experiences. Our visual cortex interacts with about 30 areas of the brain, so how can we trust what we see when our minds play tricks?
Optical illusions mislead our brain using color, light, and patterns. Our eye gathers information, and the brain processes it to make sense of what we see. But what we see sometimes isn’t the actual image. Everything we perceive is a story made up by our brains, including what we think. The brain’s frontal lobe anticipates what will happen and makes decisions about what we see or experience.
So, shouldn’t we occasionally ask ourselves if what we think is right?
When we practice introspection, the more empathy we gain. Unfortunately, with dementia progression, introspective ability and empathy are eventually lost. A person with dementia can’t second guess themselves or understand they may be wrong. Whatever their senses perceive and whatever they think is a fact to them. They can’t empathize or step into your shoes to know how you feel or if you are tired or upset or why. Their brains create a story, no matter how unreal it may be, and they believe it to be real.
Worse yet, the story affecting the person with dementia’s present perceptions gets influenced by their past. We only know a fraction of the history of someone, especially our parents. My parents were very secretive about their past and only told me what they wanted me to know. Also, no two people see the story, in the same way, so even if you experienced something together, you both remember it differently. We don’t know what parts of the past influence the actions of a person with dementia in their present.
How much of what we see or believe in our life is accurate? If our brain overrides the truth of the illusion, what else is not what it seems?
Luckily for us, we can take another look at our perceptions and beliefs and consciously change them. But for a person with advancing dementia, this is not possible.
Remember, neither of your worlds may actually be what you think it is.