It’s delirium, which affects about 30% of seniors during hospitalization. (Rates are much higher if there’s been a surgery or if the person is in the intensive care unit.)
People sometimes refer to delirium as “post-operative confusion,” or “ICU psychosis” or even “hospital dementia.”
Delirium is extremely important for family caregivers to learn about, because families are often the first to notice that senior isn’t himself or herself.
So I’ve written a comprehensive article for A Place for Mom, covering the definition of delirium and all the essential things you should know. You can find it here:
In this article, I explain:
- What is delirium, including symptoms and causes,
- How delirium differs from dementia,
- Why delirium is such an important problem to prevent and detect in seniors.
I also cover ten important things to know — and do! — about delirium:
- The statistics on how common delirium is in seniors,
- That seniors with delirium often become quieter (this is called hypoactive delirium), which is harder to detect but just as dangerous,
- That delirium is often missed by hospital staff,
- That delirium can be the only outward sign of a potentially life-threatening medical problem,
- That delirium often has multiple underlying causes,
- How delirium is diagnosed,
- How delirium is treated,
- That it often takes seniors a long time to fully recover from delirium,
- That delirium is associated with accelerated cognitive decline, and with developing dementia,
- How to prevent delirium.
To get the details on these ten things to know and do, read the full article here.
And then visit one of my favorite family sites for delirium, which is the Hospital Elder Life Program website.
Useful Online Resources Related to Delirium
Here are links to some of the resources I reference in the article:
- A study (one of many) finding that delirium is linked to worse health outcomes in the elderly
- A study of seniors in the Intensive Care Unit, finding that 43.5% had hypoactive delirium
- An article finding that seniors do better when they are hospitalized in an “Acute Care for Elders” unit (a special hospital ward tailored towards protecting seniors from hospital complications; they are great!)
- An explanation of the Confusion Assessment Method, which experts recommend doctors use to diagnose delirium
- A description of the Family-CAM, which experts developed to help family caregivers detect delirium
- A study finding that delirium accelerates cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s; a follow-up study finding that people with dementia decline twice as quickly after having delirium (!) is here.
- Tips on how family caregivers can prevent delirium, from the Hospital Elder Life Program
Last but not least, for my previous posts on delirium:
- Delirium: How Caregivers Can Protect Alzheimer’s Patients
- Hospital Delirium: What to Know and Do
- How to Maintain Brain Health: the IOM Report on Cognitive Aging
If you have any additional questions regarding delirium, please post them below!