What is Delirium?

Delirium is when a person becomes suddenly confused and disoriented. It can happen at any age, but it is most common for people older than 65.  Delirium is a sign of a serious, treatable medical condition, not a disease. There can be many causes, including:

  • Sudden or severe illness
  • Infection
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Constipation
  • Drug or alcohol withdrawal
  • Recent hospital stay or move
  • Loss of loved one
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Medication side effects
  • Change in medication
  • Recent surgery with anesthesia
  • Worsening of a chronic disease
  • Pain
  • Recent fall or injury
  • Too much or too little of some minerals in the blood, i.e. glucose, sodium

Patients may develop delirium if they have suffered from dementia, a brain injury, stroke, bad vision/hearing, or mental health concerns.

Are You Worried About Your Loved One?

Do you find yourself thinking: “He isn’t usually like this?” 

Delirium is a sign of a serious treatable condition. Don’t brush off this feeling by saying to yourself: “Oh, it’ll be OK. Maybe he was just having a rough day.”

Trust your instincts. Delirium needs to be promptly addressed by a member of a healthcare team. 

Delirium often goes unrecognized and untreated. Family members and friends can make a difference in getting effective treatment for their loved one by calling their doctor.

Common Signs of Delirium

Is your loved one:

  • Thinking unclearly
  • Unable to pay attention
  • Unaware of their surroundings
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • Unable to recognize you
  • Saying strange things

Additional signs may include:

  • Agitation, anxiety or unusual, aggressive behavior
  • Severe sleepiness or unusually quiet
  • New resistance to help from doctors

Learn more about how you can help someone who may be showing signs of Delirium.

Patient Family Advisory Council