Who Is at Risk for Delirium?
Delirium is a sudden change in a person’s mental state and ability to think clearly. It happens most often in older people who have a serious illness. There is a greater risk if the person has dementia. But delirium can happen at any age. And it does not always happen in someone with a serious illness.
Delirium is seen as an emergency. It needs to be looked at by a healthcare provider right away.
What raises a person’s risk?
Delirium can happen while a person is being treated for an illness or other serious health condition. It can also happen after surgery. The person may be in a hospital or nursing home. Or he or she may be at home. Delirium often goes unrecognized in older adults.
A person is at risk for delirium if he or she has one or more of these:
Current dementia or cognitive impairment
A past episode of delirium
Age 75 or older
Any serious illness, such as cancer, heart attack, or metabolism problem such as those tied to kidney or liver failure
Been admitted to intensive care in a hospital
Been using or is withdrawing from drugs or alcohol
Past or current brain injury or disease
A bladder catheter
Broken bones, especially those that need orthopedic surgery
Sleep problems because of light, noise, or other disruptions
Constant or severe pain that is not well-managed
Poor eyesight or hearing
Several tests or treatments in a short time
Not being able to move or pain with movement
Recent surgery with anesthesia
Medicines that raise risk of delirium
Certain medicines can raise a person’s risk of having delirium. They include:
Prescription medicines. This includes sedatives, narcotics, antispasmodics, antibiotics, muscle relaxants, steroids, high blood pressure medicine, antacids, antidepressants, heart medicines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, and pain medicines.
Over-the-counter medicines. This includes allergy medicine, cough medicine, sleeping pills, and antinausea medicine. Diphenhydramine, found in many allergy and sleeping pills, is a very common cause.
Some herbal medicines
If you know someone at risk
Delirium is an emergency. If you think that your loved one has delirium, get medical help right away.
April 30, 2017
Inouye, SK, Delirium in elderly people, Lancet (2014); 282; 911-922
Jasmin, Luc, MD,Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN