Delirium in seniors is one of the most important aging health problems that you should be aware of, whether you’re over the age of 60, or the loved one of an aging family member. In fact, if you have an elderly loved one, knowing about delirium is vital, as families are often a key part of preventing and detecting delirium.
What is Delirium?
Delirium is sometimes described as an “acute confusional state”. It can develop quite quickly, over the span of hours to days, when compared to a disease like Alzheimer’s or Dementia, which take a longer period to develop.
Delirium is a state of mental confusion. Although aging may bring about periods where you sometimes find yourself confused or disoriented, delirium is a state where such confusion is more pronounced and serious. A key symptom of delirium is difficulty concentrating. Delirium also manifests in other cognitive symptoms such as memory problems, difficulty with language, disorientation and hallucinations. Symtpoms can fluctuate in most cases, with the person’s condition better at certain times and worse than others.
Delirium is more common than people realize, with about 30% of older adults experiencing it at some point during hospitalization.
What Triggers Delirium?
Delirium is usually brought on by a medical illness, or the stress caused by hospitalization. The latter can occur especially if the hospitalization period included surgery and anesthesia. For those whose cognitive systems are especially vulnerable, such as those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia, delirium can be provoked by the side-effects or medication, or even other, less severe illnesses.
What Causes Delirium?
Some factors that cause delirium include:
- Serious medical illnesses such as kidney failure, stroke, heart attacks and more
- Metabolic imbalances
- Sleep deprivation
- Side-effects of medication
- Sensory impairments
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Uncontrolled pain
Delirium or Dementia?
Both conditions can appear similar on the surface, leading many people to confuse between the two. People with dementia are also more prone to developing delirium. The more vulnerable someone’s brian is, the easier it is for them to develop delirium. It is thus possible for someone with dementia to develop delirium concurrently. The Confusion Assessment Method helps to diagnose delirium, though it is important that the diagnosis is made by an experienced healthcare professional.
Why is Delirium Important to Know About?
Knowing about delirium helps you prevent, detect and manage it.
Delirium is a manifestation of illness or stress on your mind and body. If someone is delirious, it is necessary to identify underlying causes, which can range from infection to untreated pain. This helps with constructing an effective treatment plan.
Knowing that someone is suffering from delirium can also help manage the condition. Someone with delirium is at a higher risk of falls and other injuries while they are going through the illness.
Lastly, delirium can cause serious consequences related to health and well-being, so it is important to identify it so that it can be treated before further complications arise. Planning care for Alzheimer’s and other cognitive conditions is important, and so should be planning for delirium.