February 20, 2024

World Delirium Awareness Day 2024

On March 13, 2024, people around the world will take time to bring awareness to delirium. In older adults, delirium is a condition that comes on suddenly and requires medical attention. Delirium can create new or worsened confusion, difficulty concentrating and changes in thinking. Any older adult can develop delirium but certain things put people at higher risk:

  • Advanced age
  • Frailty
  • Hearing or visual impairment
  • Dementia or pre-existing memory problems
  • Being in hospital with a serious illness or broken hip

Some of you may have friends, relatives, or acquaintances that have experienced delirium. While it can be scary, most people usually make a full recovery from delirium within a few days after treatment. Identifying it early and seeking treatment quickly are important.  However, for some people, delirium can persist, particularly in older adults who are living with frailty or dementia.

Watch Liz and Mike’s video about how Mike ended up with delirium and what they did to address the issue.

Symptoms of delirium can range from a struggle to think clearly, inability to concentrate, awareness of surroundings, hallucinations, recent memory loss, agitation or withdrawal. Common delirium causes include infection, dehydration, malnutrition, constipation, change of environment, pain, urinary retention, alcohol use or withdrawal, surgery and any related issues or medication.

As a care partner or relative there is much you can do to help. Some things that aid those experiencing delirium are:

  • Stay calm and reassure them
  • Talk in clear short, simple sentences, repeat things if necessary
  • Limit the number of visitors at one time
  • Remind them of the time and date.  This could be done by bringing the person a clock, calendar or newspaper
  • Bring some familiar things or photos from home and talk about them
  • Make sure they  have their glasses and hearing aids, and the room is bright and well lit
  • Ask the care team if you can help at meal times or encourage/assist the person to drink and bring  foods they enjoy
  • Explain what is happening to the person and their progress

For additional resources and information that might be helpful for older adults, care partners and health care providers, please refer to the WDAD 2024 website.

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