More Information about Delirium

What is Delirium?

Yes, Delirium is a rock band. Yes, Delirium is a thriller on the NETFLIX streaming service. Yes, Delirium is a book by Lauren Oliver – but they aren’t the Delirium we are talking about.

Simply put, delirium is a condition that has been around for a long time. The word delirium comes from the Greek word meaning “out of the furrow” or “off track”. That is what it is, a medical condition that causes sudden changes in cognition (thinking) and or behavior. It is not uncommon for older adults and people with dementia to experience delirium. You might have heard someone say “Dad’s dementia got much worse during his hospital stay.” What they are describing is delirium – a sudden and noticeable change in behavior.   Dementia, on the other hand, is a slow and progressive disease, it does not suddenly accelerate. At the moment, dementia has no cure. Delirium, on the other hand, can be treated and reversed.

Identifying and addressing the causes of delirium are the best ways of clearing it up. Common causes are medication interactions, infection (often urinary tract infection or UTI), dehydration and sometimes a combination of causes. Some can be treated easily, by changing a medication, introducing antibiotics or increasing fluid intake. A family member or friend might be the most obvious and best person to recognize and report delirium. However, the best person to diagnose and treat delirium is a member of a trained medical team.

Integrative cares are somethings to consider for someone with delirium. Alternative non-drug methods that can aid in the reduction of confusion and anxiety are worthy of consideration: aromatherapy, massage, Reiki and music therapy are a few examples. Familiar and enjoyable activities to pass the time, such as puzzles, reading, coloring or listening to music can be beneficial and therapeutic.

Many of us have never heard of delirium. We mistake it for dementia, depression and anxiety. Knowing about delirium is important for making sure your family member or loved one gets proper treatment, so they can get back on track enjoying life in familiar settings and participating in favorite activities.

Here are a few key points to remember:

  • Older adults and persons with dementia have a higher chance of experiencing delirium.
  • Delirium is a sudden and noticeable change in thinking and behavior.
  • Dementia is a slow and progressive disease.
  • Delirium can be reversed.
  • You are the best person to recognize delirium. A trained medical professional is the best person to diagnose and treat it.

Posted in Delirium /General Information /Health Topics /Memory Care /

Dementia and Delirium; Know the Difference

The Difference Between Dementia and Delirium

Cognitive impairment is more common as we age. Dementia and delirium are two common causes. Delirium and dementia have similarities and can be confusing to experience and to distinguish. Both can cause memory loss, poor judgment, a decreased ability to communicate and impaired functioning. However, there are many differences between the two.

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“Dementia resembles delirium in the same way an ultramarathon resembles a dash across the street. Same basic components, vastly different scale.” ~Floyd Skloot

Onset: Dementia typically begins slowly and is gradually noticed over time. If the person who’s being evaluated is unknown to you, having a report of his usual functioning is key. Delirium is usually a sudden or acute change in condition. One day, someone is doing fine, the next, they may be very confused and unable to perform tasks, like dressing.

Cause: Dementia is typically a disease such as Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, frontotemporal dementia or a related disorder. Delirium is usually triggered by a specific illness, including: urinary tract infection, pneumonia, dehydration, illicit drug use, or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. Medication interactions can also cause delirium.

Duration:   Dementia is a progressive, chronic disease that is incurable. Delirium is normally short term and can last for a couple of days to a couple of months. Delirium is almost always temporary if the cause is identified and treated.

Communication Abilities: People with dementia often experience difficulty remembering and finding the right words. Their ability to express themselves erodes over time as the disease progresses. Delirium may cause inappropriate and/or incoherent communication that is uncharacteristic for the individual.

Attention Span and Memory: With dementia a person’s memory is significantly affected throughout the disease. The level of alertness is typically not affected until the late stages of the disease. With delirium, memory functioning is usually less affected, but the general ability to focus and maintain attention is very poor.

Activity Level: Dementia tends to not affect a person’s activity level until the later stages. People with delirium are often overly active (hyper and restless) or under-active (lethargic and less responsive) compared to usual activity.

Treatment: There are a few medications approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. They don’t cure dementia but sometimes can slow the progression of the symptoms, including: memory loss, poor judgment and behavioral changes. Delirium requires immediate treatment by a physician. Because delirium is usually caused by a physical illness or infection, medications are often effective.

 

Sources: mayoclinic.org, merckmanuals.com, verywellhealth.com, alz.org

 

Posted in Alzheimer's Disease /Health Topics /Memory Care /Nursing /Senior Living /