The role of “delirium” in increased confusion


Have more questions and don't know where to turn?

Join our community and get access to monthly support calls, an online chat forum for questions, and even monthly 1:1 calls with Rachael! CLICK HERE for more information.

Are you enjoying my blog posts? Grab a free download of one chapter from my audiobook here and also receive any future helpful tips and posts right to your inbox!

Delirium is defined as an acute onset of confusion, agitation, and sometimes even hallucinations and restlessness. If you’re a caregiver for someone living with dementia, you’re probably quite familiar with this—even if you didn’t have a name for it!

You’ve probably seen delirium if…

  • You watched someone come back from a hospital stay more confused than when they went in
  • You’ve seen someone start a new medication or stop an old mediation and have bizarre side effects
  • You’ve seen someone with a UTI, urinary tract infection
  • You took a long trip with someone living with dementia, or did something that could be exhausting or quite trying

There are any number of other reasons you might have seen delirium in someone with dementia, although it can actually occur in cognitively-stable individuals, as well. 

I had major eye surgery in 2012 and the doctors put me under anesthesia for about 4-5 hours. When I woke up, I was highly confused. What was I doing there? Why did my eye hurt? Oh, I was so hungry. Was I hungry? I had trouble speaking while the anesthesia wore off, and my memory was a little jumbled. If you’ve ever had surgery, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Delirium should go away, but it should always be treated when it appears. Don’t just assume that “wow, mom’s dementia is way worse today!” For example, most cases of delirium in older adults with dementia stem from underlying medical conditions, like a urinary tract infection. These are super treatable, and need to be treated quickly, for a person can actually go into shock if it isn’t! 

Have you signed up for my blog?

Liked it? Take a second to support Rachael Wonderlin on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

16 things poster
Get the FREE “16 Things” poster!

You're not alone!

Get personal support from Rachael and connect with other Caregivers when you join our community.

16 Things I Would Want If I Got Dementia

Get the FREE “16 Things” poster for your personal use—or better yet—your dementia care community’s staff break room!

I wrote this poem years ago, but to date, it’s the most popular piece I’ve ever created.

When you sign up, you’ll also get access to Rachael’s weekly newsletter so that you can get her top tips, links to new content as soon as it’s released, and special offers directly in your inbox! We’ll never sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

16 things poster
Shopping Cart

Have questions?

Book a Dementia Detective
call and talk to a DBD expert!