Helping a Patient with Delirium
Short-term confusion (delirium) often occurs quickly and can come and go. It may involve changes in thinking, attention, and perception. How a person copes with these changes can vary throughout any given day. Most often this lasts for a short time.
What are the causes of delirium?
Confusion may be caused by medicines or infections as well as the medical problem that brought your loved one to the hospital.
What are the symptoms?
- Confusion, they may not seem like themselves
- Reduced awareness of surroundings
- Trouble keeping up a conversation or doing a task
- Slurred speech
- Trouble naming objects
- Agitation or distress
- Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
- Trouble sleeping
You are important to your loved one at this time. While staff provides a safe environment, you can help support your loved one and help them feel secure. Talk with the staff about what you can do.
What can I do to support my loved one during this time?
- Decrease noise as much as you can by turning off the TV or radio.
- If your loved one has a normal routine, please share this with your primary nurse.
- Sit with your loved one. Your presence can be very helpful. Try to be there during the late afternoon and early evening when your loved one might be more confused.
- Be sure your loved one has his hearing aid, glasses, and any other devices needed.
- Bring in family photos or familiar items to provide comfort. Do not bring valuables.
- Discuss any concerns with the primary nurse. If you notice changes, please tell the nurse.
- Use simple words to help your loved one understand what is going on.
- Provide good lighting. Keep the lights on in the early evening to prevent confusion of voices and sounds. Dim the lights at night.
- Remove all clutter in the room.
- When your loved one asks if he is confused, it is ok to tell him “Yes, you are a bit confused at this time.” Let them know it will likely go away.
You may find it upsetting to see your loved one in this condition. Talk with the nurse or doctor about any concerns you may have.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 11/29/2011
Copyright © 11/21/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6139
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