What is delirium?
Updated: Jan 23
Delirium is a state of sudden mental confusion that is caused by medical problems, surgery, and or medications. It's a syndrome, not a disease and not to be confused with sundowning in dementia patients which is defined as late afternoon or early evening confusion, anxiety, and or agitation.
Delirium disrupts thinking, concentration, memory, and sleep. It's also referred to as an 'acute confusional state' and is worst at night time. Delirium usually gets better when the medical cause/condition is being treated and improves. For example, an UTI (Urinary tract infection) or a chest infection is treated with antibiotics.
At times, it can take several days, or weeks, and leave vivid memories.
Seniors are more likely to have an episode of delirium.
Any acute infection
Being in an unfamiliar place
Vision and or hearing problems
Medicine side effects
Anaemia - low hemoglobin levels
Hyponatremia low blood sodium levels
Liver or kidney problems
Drug or alcohol withdrawal
How to help a person with delirium?
What and Why it happened -why they feel confused
Where the person is and why and that she/he is now safe
If the person has vision and or hearing problems, help them to locate & use their glasses or hearing aids
Bring familiar items from home
Arrange friends and or family visit
The person affected by delirium may remember the emotions felt at the time, and this can be unpleasant. Once ones understand what causes it it is less frightening.