Delirium is more common than you might realise, especially in older people. Often delirium is mistakenly identified as someone having dementia or having worsening dementia. There is no doubt that delirium causes distress for the person who is suffering, as well as their families and Care Workers.
It can take older adults a long time to recover from a delirium. Whilst some recover within days, for others it can be weeks or months to fully recover. Home Care Assistance can help support people during delirium or post delirium to ensure a person remains safe until they have completely recovered. We are able to provide additional help during this period of time and promote physical and mental wellbeing for your loved one.
Whilst delirium occurs in other age groups, around 10-18% of Australians who are 65 years or older have delirium at the time of hospital admission. It is also considered a common condition in hospitalised people with 2-8% developing delirium during their stay.
What is Delirium?
Delirium is a serious acute medical condition whereby a person’s mental ability is affected with acute confusion. Developing rapidly, over hours to days, a person who has delirium is unable to think clearly.
Delirium is similar to dementia in terms of symptoms and cognitive impairment. However mental confusion due to dementia usually develops over a long period of time and thus the differentiation2. Although, delirium can also occur at the same time as dementia.
Common signs and symptoms to look out for include:
- Difficulty focusing and paying attention
- Unable to follow a conversation or answer simple questions
- Trouble recalling memories, recent events, or not knowing where they are or who they are
- Incoherent and rambling speech
Delirium is diagnosed by clinical evaluation and is managed differently depending on the cause. Once identified, the cause can then be treated.
Causes of delirium are complex, numerous and multifactorial. Often there are several factors that might be overwhelming someone’s mental resilience. Although up to two-thirds of all people affected by delirium will be in either of these at-risk categories:
- Older age
- Already have a pre-existing cognitive impairment such as dementia
Other risk factors include:
- Severe illness and infection
- Certain medication
- Poor eyesight
- Metabolic disturbances
- Excessive drug or alcohol use (and withdrawal)
- Sleep deprivation
People who have previously been diagnosed with delirium are also at a greater risk of developing future deliriums if they become unwell3.
What Can Families and Carers Look Out For?
Delirium is likely preventable in up to two thirds of hospitalised patients. This can be achieved by families and carers, for example, by ensuring their loved one’s hearing aids and glasses are available, to providing a reassuring presence in a stressful hospital setting. Often busy hospital staff will not realise someone’s confusion is new or worse, hence why family input is so important.
Less is known about how to prevent delirium within the home setting. However, if you have identified your loved one, or the person you care for is exhibiting symptoms of delirium, or acting differently, don’t hesitate to contact health professionals as soon as possible.
If your loved one becomes delirious, it is important to identify the underlying problems. Is there an infection or untreated illness that needs to be corrected? Have they recently changed medications or dosages? Additionally, an increased risk of falling occurs during a period of delirium so it is important we prevent (where possible), detect early, and manage quickly2.
The input from family and Care Workers on symptoms is crucial in separating delirium from an underlying dementia as well.
Whilst recovering from delirium can take time, our Care Workers at Home Care Assistance can help care for your loved one to ensure they remain safe, supported, and holistically cared for.
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As a leading age care provider, Home Care Assistance offers tailored in-home care services for older Australians, enabling them to live happier and healthier lives in the comfort of their own homes.
We offer private and government subsidised Care Packages and have office locations that are a registered NDIS provider. Our Care Workers undergo extensive training in order to deliver unmatched in-home aged care services where people can continue ageing in place. We are proud ambassadors of the My Aged Care government funded aged care program, enabling Australians to successfully navigate the process and gain approval for in-home care support packages. Home Care Assistance offers hourly care, specialised care, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, hospital to home care, and 24 hour in home care.