Elder Care: Hospital Delirium

Hospital visits can be stressful and frustrating even to the healthiest of us. They are often associated with demanding paperwork, long wait times, and of course the painful reason that sent you there. It is no wonder that most people avoid hospitals and clinics – and for good reason, as despite going to the hospital to get better, being in the hospital long-term can often be associated with the decline of health. Perhaps due to the emotional demands that come with navigating hospital life or even the stress that comes with suffering from a painful condition, delirium can manifest while in the hospital.

Delirium is an emotional state that is usually brought on by an illness or external stress which can lead to the body and mind malfunctioning. The external stress can be any shock to the system, including the stress of visiting or staying in a hospital.

There is a potential for delirium to affect anyone who is experiencing high stress in their body and mind, however it does especially affect the elderly, as well as those with dementia. There is a very strong chance that hospitalization can lead to delirium, as delirium affects over half of seniors who are hospitalized. This chance increases if there is a past experience of delirium.

Unfortunately despite the fact that delirium is very common in seniors who are hospitalized, it is also a high risk indicator. Delirium is associated with severe health conditions such as a higher chance of falling, increased cognitive decline, and even a higher chance of death within the year.

As delirium can often be an internal struggle, it can often be missed by hospital staff who may not notice an increase of confusion or the senior being absent-minded. Also, it can be difficult to notice or diagnose due to its multifaceted nature. Delirium can be caused by a number of stressors including being hospitalized, new medication, injury, or emotional and mental stress. Due to its multi-factorial nature, delirium treatment requires a multipronged solution. As the condition can be caused by a variety of issues, those specific issues will need to be addressed in order to create an effective treatment plan.

Delirium should be considered seriously by both primary caregivers and hospital staff, as it is easy to miss, and can lead to serious health conditions and detrimental long-term problems. There is a direct connection between a senior or someone with dementia getting delirium and a sharp decline in their health. By catching it early and getting adequate treatment there will be a better prognosis long-term for the individual suffering from delirium.

For more information, check the following articles in our home care blog on hospital stay: