Column: 12

Metamorphosis Hot Springs

Where you discover new sensations


Here in the Dementia World, there are mysterious hot springs where the water’s temperature, scent, and texture changes every time you visit. At times, the water has a moist texture and is just the right temperature, so you can soak in it and relax. At other times, the water is acidic and causes a tingling sensation on your skin. And still at other times, you are surprised by its extremely high temperature the moment your toe touches its surface. At the “Metamorphosis Hot Springs,” you feel and enjoy various sensations that reflect the ever-changing nature of the water.

We may feel and see things differently depending on the season, time of day, and our physical condition. Our vision might get blurry if we feel drained in the morning. When we enjoy a meal with family or close friends, everything might taste better. Once we start to get bothered by a bad smell in a room, we might feel as if the smell is getting stronger and stronger. Most of the time, these experiences are subjective, and it is very difficult for us to make others understand what we are feeling.

These days, it appears that people around me often find it hard to understand the sensations I am experiencing.

On one occasion, I had a strange experience while I was taking a bath at home. As always, I set the water temperature at 39 degrees Celsius and entered the bath. Then, I felt something strange. The water was slimy.*1 I hadn’t put in any bath salts or other additives, but the water was sticking to my body. It was very unpleasant. I had no choice but to quickly get out of the bath and wash my body in the shower. I wondered if somebody had used cleaning chemicals in the bathtub. I asked my daughter, who had used the bath before I did, if the water had been sticky. She looked puzzled and told me that she hadn’t noticed anything.

At other times, water which should have been the right temperature was too hot for me to enter. I have also jumped out of baths filled with nice, warm because it felt too cold to me.*1 When my family told me the water in the bathtub was always kept at the same, comfortable temperature, I started to feel something strange was going on with me. I used to love taking baths, but after a series of strange experiences, I found myself unable to enjoy them as much. I thought about what to do and eventually decided to be more flexible about when and how I take baths.

It had been my long-standing habit to take baths at night, but I concluded that I would not bathe in slimy or boiling water only to keep this habit. So, I decided that when something felt wrong, I would get out of the bath quickly and take a shower instead, or use the bath in the morning.

I had another experience like this on a summer day when my friend and I decided to have a meal in a café. As soon as we entered the café, however, I felt that it was freezing inside.*2 I took my cardigan out of my bag and put it on at once. I said to my friend, “Isn’t the air conditioning here too strong?” Wiping sweat from their forehead, my friend replied, “Do you think so? For me, it’s still hot.”

Just like this, I can be shivering when everybody else says it is hot or be sweating heavily when other people think it is cold. By now, I have learned to wear clothes that I can easily take off or put on again as soon as I feel too hot or too cold. I also carry a jacket or shawl in my bag.

Let me tell you one more story. While enjoying tennis with my friends the other day, I almost had heatstroke. I had a water bottle with me, but I had no urge to drink water or sensation of thirst*3 and continued playing under the hot sun. I didn’t realize I was dehydrated until I finally felt dizzy. I told my worried friends that I had not felt thirsty for quite some time. After that, at their suggestion, we started taking regular breaks to drink water.

Now that I understand that the sensations I feel change constantly, I can respond a lot more flexibly to the situations I face and avoid having trouble. I have also made it easier for myself by making others around me aware of my conditions. They are all kind, attentive, and willing to help.


When people with dementia enter the "Metamorphosis Hot Springs",
the following 3 mental and physical dysfunctions might be at play.