Alcohol or drug intoxication or withdrawal. A medical condition, such as a stroke, heart attack, worsening lung or liver disease, or an injury from a fall. Metabolic imbalances, such as low sodium or low calcium. Severe, chronic or terminal illness .
Sudden confusion , sometimes called delirium, can be a sign of many health problems. It comes on quickly, within hours or days. It’s different from dementia (like Alzheimer’s disease), which causes slow changes over months or years.
Confusion may be caused by different health problems, such as: Alcohol or drug intoxication. Brain tumor. Head trauma or head injury (concussion) Fever. Fluid and electrolyte imbalance. Illness in an older person, such as loss of brain function ( dementia )
Delirium can last for a few days, weeks or even months but it may take longer for people with dementia to recover. In hospitals, approximately 20-30% of older people on medical wards will have delirium and up to 50% of people with dementia . Between 10-50% of people having surgery can develop delirium.
Usually, delirium gets better. In 6 out of 10 (60%) people, the symptoms disappear within six days. Others may continue to experience some symptoms for longer. About 1 in 20 (5%) people may still suffer from delirium more than a month after they first had symptoms.
How families can help avoid or limit hospital delirium Consult with a geriatric specialist. Bring a full medication list to any new health professional. Make things familiar. Stay close. Insist on sensory aids. Promote activity. Be there for meals. Participate in discharge planning.
10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Memory loss that disrupts daily life. Challenges in planning or solving problems. Difficulty completing familiar tasks. Confusion with time or place. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
Confusion or decreased alertness may be the first symptom of a serious illness, particularly in older adults. Health problems that can cause confusion or decreased alertness include: Infections , such as a urinary tract infection , respiratory infection , or sepsis. Alzheimer’s disease.
Tips for Communicating with a Confused Patient Try to address the patient directly, even if his or her cognitive capacity is diminished. Gain the person’s attention. Speak distinctly and at a natural rate of speed. Help orient the patient . If possible, meet in surroundings familiar to the patient . Support and reassure the patient .
Sometimes a stroke happens gradually, but you’re likely to have one or more sudden symptoms like these: Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side. Confusion or trouble understanding other people. Difficulty speaking.
Stress, anxiety or depression can cause forgetfulness , confusion , difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities. Alcoholism. Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol can also cause memory loss by interacting with medications.
Sundowning is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It’s also known as “late-day confusion .” If someone you care for has dementia, their confusion and agitation may get worse in the late afternoon and evening . In comparison, their symptoms may be less pronounced earlier in the day.
In the long term, delirium can cause permanent damage to cognitive ability and is associated with an increase in long-term care admissions. It also leads to complications, such as pneumonia or blood clots that weaken patients and increase the chances that they will die within a year.
Once an older person is thirsty, they are already mildly dehydrated . Symptoms of severe dehydration include dry mouth and lips, sunken eyes, increased mental status changes and decreased urine output. This is a medical emergency which results in delirium and if not reversed, death ensues.
How to Help a Person with Delirium Encouraging them to rest and sleep. Keeping their room quiet and calm. Making sure they’re comfortable. Encouraging them to get up and sit in a chair during the day. Encouraging them to work with a physical or occupational therapist. Helping them eat and drink.