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Treatment and how can I help

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​How is delirium treated? ​

There is no treatment for delirium itself. The goal is to treat the cause of delirium and keep you as comfortable as possible. Finding the cause usually means doing some tests and asking about any recent changes in your health. The cause of delirium may never be known.

Delirium can also happen in the last days and hours of life. The focus at the end of life is to keep you, your friend or family member comfortable.

How can I help my friend or family member with delirium?

  • Speak clearly, softly, and use fewer words. Allow time to respond. They may need a minute to think about what they want to say.
  • Don't argue with or correct them.
  • Reassure them. They may be confused and frightened, so tell them you're there to help and to keep them safe.
  • Make sure they're wearing their aids (like their glasses, hearing aids, or dentures).
  • Keep the area around them calm and soothing.
  • Use a clock to help them remember the time and a calendar or whiteboard to help them remember the date.
  • Play their favourite music, as long as it's quiet and light.
  • Leave the radio or TV off. The added voices and images may add to the confusion.

In the hospital or Care home

  • Visit often but keep the visits short. In the early days of a delirium, someone may be asked to stay with their friend or family member as much as possible. Take turns so no one gets too tired.
  • Visit at mealtimes so you can help make sure they eat and drink enough. Check with the nursing staff if you want to bring in food.
  • Bring in items they know and may find comforting.
  • Bring in a book for family and friends to sign whenever they visit. When they put their name in the book include the date and time they visited. This may help your friend or family member remember their visitors.

At Home

  • Offer light and nourishing meals. Make sure they drink enough fluids to keep their urine pale.
  • Help them move around or get some light exercise.
  • Make sure someone is with them at all times.
  • Remove anything that could be a safety risk.​
​If you have questions about delirium or dementia call Health Link at 811. You can talk to a registered nurse​ and ask about the Dementia Advice Line.
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Current as of: May 26, 2022

Author: Provincial Seniors Health and Continuing Care, Alberta Health Services