This article was very interested and something I will make a lot of people I know read especially since my father has been in the hospital a few times.
Did you know that as many as 1 in 3, or 33%, of older patients arrive at the emergency room delirious? Did you know that 50% of all heart surgery and hip fracture patients also suffer from it? As much as 87% of intensive care unit patients will also go through it.
What is delirium? Delirium is a state of hallucination, disorientation, forgetfulness and confusion. As you can imagine, all or any of these states can be horrifying to a senior patient.
Now here’s the really bad part. Most doctors will not recognize the condition nor know how to treat it. Only 20% of doctors and 50% of nurses (yeah, nurses!) diagnose this condition correctly with many thinking it’s just a short term problem or inevitable which is, oh, so very wrong.
According to the article, delirium increases by 10 times the chances for death in the hospital and doubles it in the first month after release. Even 6 months later, such sufferers are 7 times more likely to die than those with the same sickness or problems who didn’t suffer from delirium. And the list goes on of resultant problems being higher in people who have delirium including a higher hospital bill after wards. The symptoms of delirium can drag on for up to 2 years and can make people more likely to suffer other forms of impairment up to and including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The study of delirium is fairly new as well meaning they have a long way to go. Part of the problem is it can have many causes which mean those who study this problem will really have their work cut out for them.
There are things that can be done to help people who are suffering from or to prevent the occurrence of delirium which you can find listed in more depth in the article. It is going to be up to us to educate ourselves and our loved ones on these items and to be pro-active with hospital staff in making sure they are done.
These steps are:
- help the patient stay oriented
- let the patient remain mobile
- do whatever to improve sleep (including not waking them to take a sleeping pill! or check their vitals unless truly necessary – my personal beef)
- make sure they get food three times a day and time to eat it and the means including dentures if necessary
- encourage plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
- don’t do things that impair their senses – let them have their glasses and hearing aids
- if the patient is delirious, keep the anti-psychotic drugs that sedate them away – they just lead to higher rates of stroke and death in the elderly