Ever wonder exactly what it means to be delirious, what brings it on, what the chances are of it going away? Wonder no more.
According to Mayo Clinic, delirium is a serious disturbance in mental abilities that results in a decreased awareness of environment and confused thinking. Delirium is similar to dementia in some respects and can be hard to distinguish in some cases. But the two conditions are different.
With delirium, the onset is usually sudden and the impairment significant from the start, while with dementia the onset is usually gradual. Delirium symptoms fluctuate much more than the symptoms of dementia.
Delirium is marked by an inability to focus, wandering thoughts, getting stuck and unable to move forward in conversation. Impaired memory, disorientation, rambling speech, impaired comprehension, and difficulty reading and writing are common delirium symptoms. Hallucinations, agitation, withdrawal, sleep disturbance, and extreme emotions are also characteristic of delirium.
Delirium is often observed in tandem with dementia, and advancing age is associated with delirium. However, delirium can appear in people of any age. The most common causes of delirium include medications, surgery, sudden and severe illness, infection, drug or alcohol use, and stress.
Certain medications are more likely to trigger delirium than others. These include sleep medications, narcotic pain relievers, anit-depressants, anti-convulsives, and allergy drugs as well as certain treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
Recovering from delirium may take time but it doesn’t typically necessitate treatment with medications except where severe agitation or confusion needs to be controlled.
Promoting orientation with day, time and place verbal prompts and clocks and calendar are fundamentals of controlling delirium.
Promoting and maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle is critical, and this can be facilitated by such simple acts as keeping the blinds open during the day and turning off lights at night.
Avoiding secondary problems is also critical with delirium. Making sure the patient gets up and walks and performs self-care tasks to the maximum extent feasible facilitates recovery. Treatment for any secondary problems – from underlying drug or alcohol use to audio or visual disturbances relating to untreated or inadequately treated hearing of vision problems- also facilitates recovery from delirium.
Mayo Clinic- Delirium
Mayo Clinic- Delirium Symptoms
Mayo Clinic- Delirium Causes
Mayo Clinic- Delirium Treatment