The Train Journey

Posted September 15, 2022

By Dawson, et all, 1993 xiv-xv,
Borrowed from the Alzheimer Society of Canada, website, 2016

THIS STORY has been used to help those who are unfamiliar with how Alzheimer’s Disease might impact their loved one. Through these words they might find a sliver of understanding. There is much being discovered about Alzheimer’s every day. Not all who are diagnosed experience the same behaviours, but many will experience some of them, and not necessarily the same as anyone else. Not necessarily as this write experienced. But life definitely will become unfamiliar to those with dementia.

For questions, please contact your nearest Alzheimer Society office.

I am going on a long journey by train.  As I begin, the city skyscrapers and country landscape look familiar.  As I continue my journey, the view reminds me of times gone by and I feel relaxed and comfortable. The other passengers on the train appear to be feeling the same way and I engage in pleasant conversation with them.

As the journey progresses, things begin to look different.  The buildings have odd shapes, and the trees don’t look quite the way I remember them. I know that they are buildings and trees, but something about them is not quite right. Maybe I’m in a different country with different architecture and plant life. It feels a bit strange, even unnerving.

I decide to ask the other passengers about the strangeness I feel, but I notice that they seem unperturbed. They are barely taking notice of the passing scenery.  Maybe they have been here before.  I ask some questions, but nothing seems different to them.  I wonder if my mind is playing tricks on me.  I decide to act as if everything looks all right but because it does not, I must be on guard.  This places some tension on me, but I believe I can tolerate it for the remainder of the trip.  I do, however, find myself becoming so preoccupied with appearing all right that my attention is diverted from the passing scenery.

After some time, I look out the window again, and this time I know that something is wrong.  Everything looks strange and unfamiliar!  There is no similarity to anything I can recall from the past.  I must do something.  I talk to the other passengers about the strangeness I feel.  They look dumbfounded and when they answer, they talk in a new language. Why won’t they talk in English, I wonder? They look at me knowingly and with sympathy.  I’ve got to get to the bottom of this, so I keep after them to tell me where the train is and where it is going.  The only answers I get are in this strange language, and even when I talk, my words sound strange to me.  Now I am truly frightened.

At this point, I figure that I have to get off this train and find my way home.  I had not bargained for this when I started. I get up to leave and bid a pleasant good-bye. I don’t get very far, though, as the other passengers stop me and take me back to my seat.  It seems they want me to stay on the train whether I want to or not. I try to explain by they just talk in that strange language.

Outside the window the scenery is getting even more frightening. Strange, inhuman-looking beings peer into the window at me. I decide to make a run for it.  The other passengers are not paying much attention to me, so I slip out of my seat and quietly walk toward the back of the car.  There’s a door! It is difficult to push, but I must. It begins to open and I push harder. Maybe now I will get away.  Even though it looks pretty strange out there, I know I will never find my way home if I do not get off the train.  I am just ready to jump when hands suddenly appear from nowhere and grab me from behind.  I try to get away.  I try to fight them off, but I can feel them pulling me back to my seat.

How sad I feel.  I did not say good-bye to my friends or children.  As far as I know they do not know where I am.  The passengers look sympathetic, but they do not know how sad I feel.  Maybe if they knew they would let me off the train.  I stop smiling, stop eating, stop trying to talk and avoid looking out the window.  The passengers look worried.  They force me to eat.  It is difficult because I am too sad to be hungry.

I realize now that I will never get off this train; I will never get home.

I have no choice now.  I must go along with the passengers because they seem to know where the journey will end.  Maybe they will get me there safely.  I fervently wish that I had never started out on this journey, but I know I cannot go back.

© Alzheimer Society of Canada 2016. All rights reserved. For comments of additional information contact the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

The Train Journey Copyright © 2022-2023

2 thoughts on “The Train Journey

  1. Jean, Thank you for your note. It appears you understand that each loved one with one of the dementia, memory loss, diseases will experience it differently, depending on which disease, progression of disease, and other unique situations. When I became a caregiver for My Love, I was unfamiliar with Alzheimer’s and this story helped me get a glimpse of what I could never have imagined. I am glad you feel comfortable asking questions and searching for answers, there is so much to learn. Thank you.😊


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