Saturday, July 13, 2024
HomeNewsHuman AffairsLiving with dementia – a carer’s journey: 5. Psychotic episodes

Living with dementia – a carer’s journey:
5. Psychotic episodes

One evening in May 2020, Stuart suddenly felt freezing cold. I checked his vital signs, all seemed to be within the normal range. In the following days and weeks, gradually the symptoms became more frequent. He would start with feeling cold, then roll onto the floor, shivering, holding his head saying “you are hitting me”, “it hurts”.

It was frightening for me to watch. I called paramedics a number of times initially and consulted with Prof. Smerdely, who didn’t think that it was very common in his professional career, and decided to admit Stuart to hospital for investigation.

Stuart was hospitalised for 15 days during July 2020, six days at St George Private Hospital without any episodes, subsequently nine days at St George Public Hospital.

During the second hospital admission, medical staff witnessed multiple psychotic episodes and Prof. Smerdely started medication for Stuart, hoping to settle him down and minimise the episodes.

Sadly, medication didn’t have much effect. Stuart endured psychotic episodes randomly for many months, sometimes in unfamiliar places, or in the car when I was driving, or when he was bored and agitated. Witnessing his episodes was traumatic and heart wrenching, and I struggled to come up with activities to keep him occupied.

He was a handyman and he had the ingenious idea to make wood blocks to place in the grooves of Colourbond fences. I supported him and bought the materials for him. This “project” kept him engaged for many months. I noticed that when Stuart was busy with tasks, his mind was focussed on them instead of being idle, which gave him a sense of achievement, purpose and value. His mood was better, he was less anxious and his episodes decreased. I could get things done without being interrupted when he was occupied.

Managing Stuart’s depression, psychotic episodes, behaviours and repetitive questions exhausted me mentally and physically. He constantly needed attention. Sometimes I had to choose to be silent otherwise I knew that I could explode.

Later in 2020, Stuart started to show aggression. I was worried that he might hurt me physically, I was also worried that he might hurt himself when he was having the psychotic episodes. He was more restless, saying “I want to go home” multiple times a day. Once he said “I will never come back to this place again”, sadly he had disassociated himself from our home, which hurt me deeply. I kept telling him that he would go home tomorrow. When he got very distressed, I had to take him out for a drive to settle him, otherwise he might have another full psychotic episode.

I was worn out mentally, emotionally and physically and feeling despair. I cried almost every day.

For the very first time, I was considering respite for Stuart. I needed a break before I broke down.

Throughout 2024 Alicia plans to share her experiences to support and empower carers and their loved ones. She welcomes your feedback on this column – please comment on Facebook, Instagram or X or email

Read part 4: Progression
Read part 6: Respite and in-home care


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img

Sydney’s best ‘top 20’ result in prestigious world rankings

The University of Sydney has secured its highest ever ranking overall and continues to be rated as a top 20 global university in the 2025 QS World University Rankings.

Homes NSW to develop North Eveleigh Clothing Store site

The North Eveleigh Clothing Store Precinct will be transferred to Homes NSW for the delivery of 500 new homes, half of which will be social and affordable homes.

A new kind of industry policy

The Trevor Davies Memorial Lecture is an annual event hosted by the Trevor Davies ALP Branch, and the Newtown ALP State Electorate Council. This year, it was held at the Royal Hotel on June 13. Assistant Minister Tim Ayres, a former branch member and Darlington local, was asked to deliver the address.

Volunteers’ News – July 2024

Volunteers’ News – July 2024.

Refreshing approach to food production

REDFERN: On July 21, I was lucky enough to attend the launch of the new website for Native Botanical Brewery (NBB), and to talk to the team behind this new and innovative business.

‘A giant in the fight for First Nations justice’

It is with great sadness that Reconciliation Australia sends our condolences to the family and friends of the Rev. Dr D. Gondarra OAM.