Column: 05

Seaofletters Forest

Make it out of the forest full of letters!


Here in the Dementia World, there is a magic forest called the “Seaofletters Forest.” If you take one step into this forest, you can easily get lost may hardly make it back out. You will lose track of where you are in the dense fog of memory, wander down wrong paths in the darkness between the lines, encounter traps filled with letters, and end up walking in circles. Many who enter the forest do not make it out.

Perhaps you have at some point read a book and felt that it was difficult to remember the names of all the characters. You may have flipped back a few pages to check the identity of a character who only makes occasional appearances.

I enjoy reading novels, but I am no longer able to concentrate on stories because I do not know who the characters are almost every time I see their names.*1 In addition to the names of characters, the names of places have become harder to remember, too.*2 I have not read a novel for quite some time now.

Simply reading text has also become challenging these days. I can read and understand letters or words.
However, as soon as they combine into sentences, I sometimes cannot make out what they mean as unified groups of letters and words.*3 I feel as if I were trying to scoop water with a sieve; I can tell letters are passing through my retinae, but nothing stays in my head.

Moreover, when I am reading sentences that run for multiple lines, I lose track of my place at the start of each new line. When shifting my attention to a new line, I may not be able to tell where to turn my eyes to*4 or may feel that my eyes drift aimlessly in the margin between lines.*5

“Where on the page was I reading?”

I try to find where I left off by checking the text letter by letter while trying to remember which words I was reading. However, for some reason, my efforts end up fruitless. I feel as though I am left alone in a forest covered with dense, white fog.

Wandering around the forest in books like this exhausts me before I can get any enjoyment from reading. I sometimes put down my book, telling myself that I do not have to try so hard. Then, when I open the book again, I have forgotten almost everything that I have read.*6

When it comes to the way letters are used, newspapers and magazines are the same. They use decorative letters in headlines. Each page uses a variety of font sizes and orientations. Graphics, like speech balloons, can appear. Pages that use multiple formats or decorative letters are harder to process in my head*3, making them more difficult to read.

I like reading new stories or books written by various authors because I feel like l can get glimpses of the lives of people I do not know. I like reading news in newspapers because I feel that I am connected with the world. However, reading tires my brain quickly, and I find it extremely difficult to read anything through.

I am still seeking ways to enjoy reading.

I have recently tried audiobooks and listening to e-books using the text-to-speech function on my smartphone. As reading with my eyes has become challenging, I tried relying on my ears. Not having to follow text with my eyes gives me more comfort. I still tend to forget things, but I can enjoy myself to a certain extent.
I sometimes cannot find audiobook versions of what I want to read or get irritated by voices that sound a little mechanical. However, these are only small issues considering how much joy I receive from reading books I like.


When people with dementia enter the "Seaofletters Forest",
the following 6 mental and physical dysfunctions might be at play.