Delirium refers to a severe disturbance in someone’s mental capabilities, which is characterized by confusion and the decreased environment of the person’s surroundings. Delirium usually occurs suddenly.
Delirium can occur due to one or more risk factors such as medication, chronic medical illness, surgery, infection or alcohol or drug abuse.
Symptoms of delirium can be similar to those of dementia; therefore, it is important that the guardian or parent provided useful input about the casualty’s condition for an accurate diagnosis.
Signs and symptoms of Delirium
Signs and symptoms may appear within a short time period, ranging from a few hours to a few days. Symptoms usually fluctuate, so a person may be suffering from symptoms or no symptoms as all.
Signs and symptoms normally include the following:
- Reduced awareness of one’s surroundings. This may include his inability to focus on a specific topic, wandering attention, getting easily distracted and little or no response to his surroundings or environment.
- Cognitive impairment or poor thinking skills. This may include poor memory, rambling speech, difficulty understanding what a person says, difficulty writing or reading, difficulty recalling words or even speaking and disorientation (not knowing who a person is, what time of the day it is, where he is etc.)
- Behavioral changes. For example, hallucinations, disturbed sleep, irritability or restlessness and extreme emotions like fear, anger, depression or anxiety
Treatment for Delirium
Treatment firstly involves addressing the underlying condition or trigger that may be causing delirium. This will include stopping the se of the medication triggering it, or treating the infection. Treatment measures then focus on providing a supportive environment to allow the body to heal and calm the person’s brain.
Some examples of supportive, no medication treatment measures, that do not require a professional or a person with first aid certification include:
- Placing clocks and calendars to prevent disorientation
- A comfortable environment with objects that may be similar to the objects at home
- Avoid changing objects or surroundings and caregivers
- Involve family members in helping a person suffering from delirium
- Allowing the person to sleep without interference, for example, reducing noise and light levels
- Open the windows and blinds during daytime to enhance alertness and adjust the person to a sleep-wake cycle
- Provide adequate nutrition and plenty of fluids
- Avoid physical restraints
- For agitation, light music, massage, adequate light and relaxation techniques can be sought
- Provision of hearing aids, prescription glasses and other equipment may be required
- Consider nondrug approaches for sleep problems and anxiety
- Stick to simple communication about the environment, people and the time
- Allow the person to get out of bed and consider performing self-care measures
Make sure you speak with your doctor about discontinuing use or minimizing use of a certain medication that may be causing delirium.