Delirium is a condition that affects the brain. It often shows up suddenly, within hours or days. Some features of delirium include:
There are many risk factors for delirium such as having a severe infection or being on certain medicines. Even a stay in a hospital intensive care unit (ICU) can put you at risk. Delirium related to a stay in an ICU is called
ICU delirium. For most people, ICU delirium only lasts a few days.
Having delirium can lead to longer stays in the ICU and in hospital after discharge from ICU. Some of the reasons that patients may need to stay longer in the ICU include:
After being in the ICU, people may go home from the hospital not knowing what’s wrong but they feel different. They may think they feel this way because of why they were in the hospital, but this may not be the cause.
The more days you or your loved one has delirium in the hospital, the more likely there will be problems related to ICU delirium after getting home.
“My recovery was shocking – long and drawn out. Physical recovery took a year. For the first 6 months I was bedridden. I couldn’t walk up the stairs [in my house]. My husband had to buy a bed for me to sleep in the living room. I couldn’t take care of my kids…during the first 6 months I was back in the hospital a few times…. One of the most challenging things for me was learning how to walk again.”
“I no longer recognized a lot of people. As the months went on, I went through my Facebook contacts and didn’t know who these people were anymore…Short-term memory issues were profound. I would make lists for everything. I would drive to the store for one item… by the time I got to the store I wouldn’t remember what I had gone for”. –
Nadine, mother of 2 and ICU survivor
Experience with Long-term Impact of ICU Delirium – Nadine Foster
Current as of: March 25, 2021
Author: Critical Care SCN, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.