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Frequently Asked Questions About Delirium

What Is Delirium?

Delirium is an under-recognized, but surprisingly common problem, particularly among older adults who are hospitalized. People who are delirious have trouble thinking clearly, focusing their thoughts and paying attention. Delirium is different than the long-term confusion seen with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Delirium can come on within hours, and may come and go throughout the day.

Video: How to Recognize Delirium

What Causes Delirium?

It can be caused by a number of things – medications, infection, and simply being in an unfamiliar environment like the hospital. Patients at particular risk for delirium are those who have:

  • Memory or thinking problems
  • Severe illness
  • Dehydration
  • Problems seeing or hearing

How Is Delirium Treated?

Depending on the cause of the delirium, treatment may include medication as well as regular contact from our staff and HELP volunteers. Family members also play an important role in helping a patient with delirium. (See the next page for examples of what you can do to help your loved one).

Will My Family Member Recover From Delirium?

Patients often recover from delirium in a few days or weeks. Some patients may not respond to treatment for many weeks, and others may continue to experience issues with it. Each patient is different; your family member’s regular health care provider can answer specific questions you may have if delirium continues after the hospital stay.

Who Can I Speak To If I Have Questions?

You can speak with any member of our care team at any time if you have questions or concerns. In addition, if you have questions about the HELP program, please contact Peggy Petrone.