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Senior’s Health

What’s the difference between delirium and dementia?

​​​​Delirium comes on suddenly over a few hours, or a few days. It may be temporary, but can last from a few days to several weeks. It may take weeks or months to recover.

Dementia is a slow, steady decline in function over several months or years. Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia.

Delirium in someone with dementia can be harder to see. You may notice a sudden change in behaviour (e.g., the person is more agitated). You may also notice that the person may not be able to do things as well, or has trouble paying attention. Telling a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider about the changes you see is very helpful because you know the person best.

Current as of: December 19, 2016

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