Navigating the fog: World Delirium Awareness Day sheds light on a hidden challenge

In a world buzzing with technological advancements and medical breakthroughs, silent battles are still being fought within healthcare facilities' corridors. One such often-overlooked challenge is delirium, a medical condition that affects millions around the globe. March 13th marked World Delirium Awereness Day, a day to shed light on this often misunderstood and underdiagnosed condition.


What exactly is delirium?

Delirium is a condition that causes a person to become confused. It is not a specific disease but a change in a person's attention, awareness, and thinking. It is sometimes referred to as an acute confusional state and is a common and potentially serious condition. While it can happen to anyone, anywhere, it often occurs when someone is in the hospital. It may result in longer hospital stays and is associated with other complications (such as an increased risk of nursing home admission).


What are the common effects of delirium?

Delirium interferes with a person’s ability to focus, stay on track or shift attention.  The symptoms often wax and wane during the day and may disturb sleep. Confusion, forgetfulness, hallucinations (seeing things which are not real) and feeling restless are common. You may have had the experience of visiting a family member or friend after surgery and found that they were not quite themselves.  Perhaps they didn’t remember where or why they were in the hospital. They may have appeared muddled and said strange things.


What causes delirium?

Several causes of delirium and factors make it more likely to occur. Predisposing factors exist in the patient before delirium develops, such as age and medical conditions. Precipitating factors are conditions associated with the start of delirium and include things like infections or medical complications, among others.


 What can be done to prevent delirium?

A combination of simple interventions (lighting, reorienting, extended family visits, explanations, familiar objects, clocks/calendars) may help to prevent delirium in a person in the hospital. These same things may also help a person recover from delirium. Let the hospital staff know if you suspect a loved one is unusually confused or agitated.


To learn more about delirium, treatment, and prevention strategies, read through our resources below and participate in our new interactive e-learning lesson.

Featured Resources

E-Learning: Delirium - Is your loved one at risk?

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