Those with advancing dementia can sometimes experience an overlap of more than one reality like this double exposure photo in this post. I accidentally took this photo while living with Indigenous in Guatemala. It’s an eerie representation of how my time there was like existing in two worlds at once.

John was sitting at the window, absorbed in watching a man walk across the street with his dog. Mary, John’s wife, was in the kitchen and making breakfast and asked if he was hungry. He was so focused on the man and his dog, he didn’t hear her or even realize she was there. John had dementia, and often his attention would go somewhere else, and he’d simply check out.

Some children appeared. John couldn’t make them out too well as they seemed fuzzy and out of focus like they were behind a veil. The man was clearly still there, but he didn’t seem to notice the children at all. Then John’s brother Jake waved at him from the group. John felt a little confused, his brother had died last year, yet here he was still a child.

Jake hollered, “Hey John, our cat is stuck in the tree again.” John replied, “That cat darn cat always gets stuck in the tree, Jake.” From the kitchen, Mary asked, “What cat are you talking about?” John turned to answer her, but when he looked back at the window, the man with the dog was now down the block, and the children seemed to be slowly fading away, and then they were gone.

Overlapping realities can seem as though they are a double exposure of two or more videos playing at the same time. Sometimes they merge, and other times they play out separately but intermingled. Most times the person experiencing this has advanced dementia, and unlike John would probably not remember his brother died. He’d just watch or interact with the scenario as though this was normal.

The past leaks into the present and either replaces what’s happening now or joins it. This sometimes happens after sleep. Many people with dementia have a hard time orienting themselves after waking up. Sometimes their dream doesn’t end; it continues playing out after waking.

Seldom does anyone realize they are dreaming, and even I have experienced being very drowsy upon waking and the dream continued playing out in my room? Usually, it only lasted a few seconds, but I understand how this could happen with a person with dementia.


Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter

More Posts