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Confusion, Memory Loss and Altered Alertness

Treatment for Delirium

How is delirium treated?

The cause of the delirium needs to found before it can be treated. This usually means doing some tests and finding out about recent events. Treating delirium also means offering supportive care and safety for the person. Sometimes medication may be needed.

Will the person return to normal?

Delirium often clears in a few days or weeks. Some people may not respond to treatment for many weeks. Others may not fully return to their normal selves. You may see some problems with memory and thinking that do not go away. Each person is different. Please talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns.

How can I help with treatment?

There are many things you can do to help someone with delirium:
  • speak clearly
  • do not argue with or correct them
  • comfort them. They may be confused and frightened so tell them you are there to help and to keep them safe.
  • make sure they are wearing their aids (like their glasses, hearing aids, dentures, etc).
Other things you can do are:
  • keep the surroundings calm and soothing
  • use a clock or calendar to help orient them to time and date
  • play their favourite music, as long as it’s quiet and light
  • leave the radio or television off. The added voices and images may add to the confusion.

In hospital:

  • Visit often, but keep the visits short. In the early days of a delirium, someone may be asked to stay with the person as much as possible. Take turns so that no one becomes tired from helping care for the person.
  • 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 that the person is familiar with and may find comforting.
  • Bring in a book for family and friends to sign whenever they visit, including the date and time of their visit. This may help them remember their visitors.

At home:

  • Offer light and nourishing meals. Make sure that 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 hazards around them that may be a safety risk.

Current as of: January 22, 2016

Author: Senior’s Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services