Delirium (Confusion)

What is delirium?

Delirium is a confused mental state. It is characterized by illusions, movement changes, inattentiveness, agitation, and hallucinations. Although it can happen at the end of life, many episodes are caused by medicine or dehydration which are reversible.

A person might suddenly get very sleepy and unaware of their surroundings or act very upset and nervous. The person will not recognize this change in themselves and is most often noted by others.

How bad is my delirium?

Mild: Acute confusional state

Moderate: Acute confusional state; limiting instrumental activities of daily life (preparing meals, managing money, shopping, doing housework, and using a telephone).

Severe: Acute confusional state; limiting self-care activities of daily life (eating, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, taking a bath, and using the toilet); urgent intervention indicated; new-onset.

How to manage mild to moderate delirium?
  • Control surroundings to keep the room quiet and well-lit.
  • Have family members around. Keeping the same caregivers may also help.
  • Take prescribed medicines to treat the symptoms.
  • Promote good sleep habits.
  • Remain calm and well-oriented.
How to manage severe delirium?

Talk to your doctor if you have risk factors or notice any signs or symptoms including cough, infection, fever, and breathing problems.

What causes delirium?

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