WHAT IS DELIRIUM?
Delirium is usually a temporary condition caused by a disturbance of brain functions. It is used to describe a state of sudden confusion with changes in a person’s behaviour, consciousness and attention.
HOW COMMON IS IT?
It is a very common condition in hospitalized older people, particularly over 65 and those with pre-existing memory problems such as dementia.
WHAT INCREASES THE RISK OF DEVELOPING DELIRIUM?
There are certain conditions which can lead to an increased risk of developing delirium and certain people may develop a delirium because of a less severe cause such as constipation. Some conditions that can lead to a delirium include
* surgery (especially heart or hip surgery)
* a terminal illness
* heart failure
* infection (urinary tract or chest infection) or sepsis
* painkillers or sedative medications
* stroke or head trauma
* poor eyesight and/or hearing
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF DELIRIUM?
* Confusion, disorientation
* easily distractible
* rambling speech
* changes in attention, alertness
* agitation (sometimes leading to aggression)
* increased suspiciousness and paranoid thinking
The symptoms are often worse at night (sundowning).
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO HAVE DELIRIUM?
The person with delirium may:
* be less aware of what’s going on around
* be unsure of where they are
* be unable to follow a conversation or follow others
* hear voices when there is no one around (auditory hallucination)
* have vivid dreams or see people or things (visual hallucination) which aren’t there
* be very agitated or restless, unable to sit still
* be very slow or sleepy
* sleep during the day or wake up at night
* be frightened, anxious, depressed or irritable