Why think delirium?

Featured article - 18 October 2017
Sharon Blackburn CBE, policy and communications director, National Care Forum

Head-shot of the author, Sharon Blackburn CBE, policy and communications director, National Care Forum

Delirium is a sudden change in a person's mental state and potentially goes unidentified as the symptoms which people present with can often be mistaken for depression or dementia. It is preventable in 30% of cases- so it is worth knowing about and more importantly being able to recognise and respond to appropriately.

The role of the care home manager is immense and vital. One of the many roles they fulfil is ensuring their staff are equipped and resourced with the right information to care for residents. Given that people over the age of 65 are at risk, it makes sense that this quick guide be added to their tool kit of resources to assist day to day practice.

Risk factors associated with delirium include recent hip fracture; cognitive impairment or dementia or a severe illness.

People who present with delirium may have a range of signs and symptoms. They can move from hyperactive delirium to hypoactive delirium during the course of a day and the severity can vary.

So what does this look like?

People may present with increased confusion; hallucinations; sleep disturbance; reduced appetite and poor concentration to name just some of the signs/symptoms.

The key is knowing the person, understanding what is normal for them. Ensuring that they are only on the medication that is absolutely necessary. Assessing, planning and reviewing are all essential elements of caring for the person. The essentials of ensuring that the person is free of pain; well hydrated and eating well; able to sleep well and free from infection are some of the ways to help minimise the risk of delirium.

It sounds like common sense but often is not identified. Delirium whilst common, is usually temporary so early identification is key to alleviating the person's distress.

Think Delirium!

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