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hospital delirium

The Caregiver’s Guide to Navigating Hospital Delirium

Mild cognitive and behavioral changes are common in older adults. 

However, if your senior loved one begins experiencing these changes suddenly and after being hospitalized, it may be more than just normal aging and senior moments. 

Without prompt medical treatment, hospital-induced delirium can become serious and life-threatening. 

While not a disease, your loved one’s symptoms can worsen if their delirium is left untreated. 

As a caregiver, be aware of the signs and symptoms of delirium to ensure the health and safety of your loved one.

Learn more about hospital delirium, the signs and symptoms of the condition, what causes delirium, the chances of recovery, how caregivers can support their loved one, and where to find a compassionate community

What is hospital delirium?

Hospital delirium is a serious illness that can suddenly change a person’s mental state. 

Unlike dementia, or other neurodegenerative diseases, delirium is not a disease, and it is curable. 

Older adults with medical conditions and health problems are more prone to develop delirium than others, especially when they become hospitalized. 

While a hospital stay may be necessary for your senior loved one, receiving care and support at home or in an assisted living or memory care community may reduce their chances of hospital-induced delirium going unrecognized. 

Family and friends will likely notice changes in their loved one’s mental state quickly when caring for or visiting their loved one. 

At The Kensington Reston, our team has been trained to monitor our residents for symptoms and treat them accordingly by following their individualized care plan. 

Hospital-induced delirium signs and symptoms

Knowing the signs and symptoms of delirium may save your senior loved one’s life and get them the help they need to recover quickly. 

Signs that a senior is experiencing delirium may include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Apathy 
  • Being easily distracted 
  • Confusion
  • Decreased responsiveness 
  • Delusions 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Disorientation 
  • Drowsy
  • Hallucinations 
  • Laziness 
  • Paranoia
  • Rambling 
  • Restlessness 
  • Sudden changes in emotions
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Unable to speak clearly
  • Withdrawal 

Since delirium and dementia have overlapping symptoms it can be difficult for healthcare workers to recognize and diagnose seniors accordingly. 

The most important thing to consider if your loved one is experiencing these symptoms is if they progressed over time or began suddenly.

Seniors who develop delirium display these symptoms with sudden change over the course of a day or two, unlike seniors with dementia, who slowly show signs of cognitive decline. 

At The Kensington Reston, our team monitors our residents’ health and behavior daily to ensure they receive the best medical care and support. 

It’s important to us that our residents maintain their health and have the best quality of life.

What causes hospital-induced delirium?

Adults 65 years and older are at a higher risk to develop delirium after hospitalization. 

Some of the most common causes of hospital delirium are: 

  • Abnormal metabolism 
  • Constipation 
  • Dehydration 
  • Infection
    • Pneumonia
    • Sepsis
    • Urinary tract infection
  • Isolation
  • Low levels of blood oxygen 
  • Medications 
    • Painkillers
    • Sedatives
    • Sleeping pills 
  • Multiple medical conditions 
  • Pain 
  • Poor nutrition 
  • Surgery 

With our enhanced care and full spectrum of clinical services, our high care partner to resident ratio, and on-site nursing staff, we can treat many of these conditions in our communities. 

The less time your loved one needs to spend in the hospital, the happier and more comfortable they will feel. 

Can you recover from hospital delirium?

Most seniors can recover from hospital delirium by addressing what caused it and receiving proper treatment. 

In most cases, it may only take a few days or weeks for your loved one’s mental state and health to improve. 

Recognizing symptoms and getting them prompt treatment is crucial to give your loved one the best chance at recovery. 

While delirium is common in older adults, especially those hospitalized, even healthcare workers admit that it’s an underrecognized condition. 

If your loved one has multiple medical issues, it puts them at a higher risk to develop  delirium, so you will want to be aware of any changes in their mental state and monitor them closely. If it’s a hospital stay of a few months or more, consider looking into recovery in senior living.

How can family caregivers help with delirium recovery?

A caregiver can help their loved one recover from delirium by keeping them comfortable in a supportive and calm environment, such as an enhanced assisted living community.

Speaking calmly and in clear sentences can help your loved one understand those talking to them and lessen their fear or confusion. 

When creating a safe and comforting environment, caregivers should place photographs and familiar objects nearby for their loved one to see. 

If your loved one wears eyeglasses or hearing aids, ensure they have these available to them at all times.

Seniors can also find comfort in being read to, having visitors, and listening to peaceful music. 

A good sleep routine will benefit their mind, body, and soul. 

Depending on the cause of a loved one’s delirium, they may need rehabilitation, such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy. 

Assisted living is a viable option to consider for a care plan, due to it’s on-site rehabilitation services. In addition, 24/7 dedicated nursing care, concierge services to handle all medical appointments, on-site doctors to handle medications and coordination with physicians, and nutritional and enjoyable dining make recovery as comfortable as possible.

The Kensington Reston: your partners in care

The Kensington Reston is an enhanced assisted living and progressive memory care community located in Reston, Virginia. 

Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own by offering high-quality services by our professional and compassionate team. 

Whether your loved one needs a home to recover in, or a home where they can age in place, we can accommodate the needs of your loved one.

Our beautiful, elegant, and warm communities provide our residents with: 

Contact us to learn more about our safe and loving communities, amenities, caregiver resources and support, and upcoming events.

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