Well, actually it is. But that is not what you need to know about delirium. What you need to know about delirium is very simple and you may need this information sooner than you think.
The good news is that delirium is short term and reversible confusion. It’s also not a new condition. The word delirium comes from a Greek word meaning “out of the furrow” or off track. It is a medical diagnosis for sudden changes in cognition (thinking) or behavior. It is not uncommon among older adults and persons with dementia or Alzheimer’s have a higher chance of having a delirious episode. Many times a family member will say “Mom’s dementia got so much worse during her hospital stay”. What they are describing is delirium—a sudden and noticeable difference in behavior. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are slow, progressive diseases that do not suddenly accelerate. As of now, these diseases do not have a cure. Delirium, however, can be reversed.
The best way to clear delirium is to identify and address the underlying cause. The usual culprits are certain medications, urinary tract infections (UTIs) or dehydration. All of these can be treated fairly easily—by changing or discontinuing medications, administering antibiotics, or increasing fluid intake. The best person to diagnose delirium is a member of a medical team—physician, nurse or other professional who can identify the underlying causes. But the best person to recognize delirium is a friend or family member who sees the sudden changes in behavior or thinking. They are the ones who can alert the medical team to these changes because they may not know what “normal” is for their patient.
Something else to be informed about if you have a family member with delirium is alternative,
non-drug ways to reduce confusion and ease anxiety. Aromatherapy, healing touch, Reiki, and music therapy are a few examples of programs that can be integrated with other treatments to help people with delirium feel less distressed and confused. Any familiar, enjoyable pastime such as puzzles, reading, gardening can also be beneficial and therapeutic.
Because many of us have never heard of delirium, we may mistake it for dementia, depression, anxiety or other contributors to changes in behavior or thinking. Knowing more about delirium is important to making sure you or your family member gets the appropriate care so they can get back on track and enjoy life in its familiar settings and participate in favorite activities.
Key things to remember:
• Delirium is a sudden and noticeable change in thinking or behavior.
• Delirium can be reversed so that a person returns to their familiar surroundings and activities.
• YOU are the best person to recognize delirium. Your doctor is the best person to diagnose and treat it.
• Older adults and persons with dementia have a higher chance of having a delirious episode.
• Delirium the rock group is less likely to impact your life than the medical condition of delirium.
For more information visit the American Delirium Society website: https://www.americandeliriumsociety.org/about-delirium/patientfamily
Anne C. Tabat
Transitions & Community Relations Manager
Walker Methodist Health Center
EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at www.edenprairieaging.org