Hospital Induced Delirium in Older Adults

By Eunice K. Neubauer

Hospital Induced Delirium in Older Adults Twin Cities MNEach year more than 7 million hospitalized Americans suffer from delirium.  A person with delirium shows a sudden alteration in their mental state.    Symptoms are:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty understanding
  • Saying things that don’t make sense
  • Changes in personality
  • Hallucinations
  • Withdrawn

A person with dementia going into the hospital is likely to experience delirium.   The rate of cognitive decline is much higher from those with Alzheimers that experience delirium than those without delirium.   The best practice is to assume that a person with dementia will have delirium at any point in the hospital or when transitioning from one level of care to another.

Caregivers should use these delirium prevention techniques:

  • Never leave a dementia person alone in a hospital
  • Keep them oriented to time and place; for example, open blinds, provide them their glasses so they can see the clock, hearing aids to hear what’s going on
  • Keep them hydrated and make sure they are eating
  • Get them out of bed and walking if possible
  • Keep nurses out so they can sleep

There are three types of delirium:

  1. Hyper – most obvious to identify and least common
  2. Hypo – not moving is the key, slower speech, withdrawn, mental cloudiness, more common and least diagnosed/noticed
  3. Combination of the two, this occurs the most; aggression and then calm

Nearly two thirds of cases are not recognized by physicians and nurses.     For more information on delirium see



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