Delirium Awareness

This is Delirium Awareness Week, which began on Monday and is designed to raise the profile of this acute condition.

Delirium causes symptoms such as confusion, agitation, drowsiness and abnormal thoughts.

Information stands offering advice and further information about delirium have been placed in the concourse area and on level five of Ninewells Hospital, at lunchtimes at Stracathro Hospital in Brechin and at Whitehills Community Care Centre in Forfar.

Dr Matt Lambert, Clinical Lecturer and Speciality Registrar in Medicine for the Elderly and Stroke with NHS Tayside, said: “Delirium is common in the community and occurs in 25 to 60 per cent of older people in hospital, especially those with dementia. It is often not recognised or treated appropriately due to a widespread lack of appreciation of the causes and importance of delirium.

“We hope that the events going on throughout the week will improve how patients are treated and raise awareness amongst those who may have contact with people with delirium from medical staff to carers, relatives and the general public.”

Delirium is a sudden change in brain function which can make someone to appear confused, agitated or drowsy/sleepy. It is usually caused by a combination of triggers including infection, changes in medication, constipation, other medical illnesses, admission to hospital or moving to unfamiliar places. Only a small change is needed to trigger delirium.

Recognising delirium quickly allows identification and management of all the triggers and can help prevent people with delirium from coming to more harm or distress. Although delirium is usually reversible, some people with delirium will have undiagnosed dementia or go on to develop dementia in the future. Following up with patients who have been treated for delirium will help doctors to recognise dementia and provide appropriate treatment and support.