The confusion is called delirium or psychosis and is a symptom, an alarm bell, and usually means that something else is wrong and is causing the delirium. Disorientation, paranoia, anxiety, and restlessness can all be signs of hospital psychosis and if you observe any of these symptoms you should ask for an assessment to be made. Delirium is a condition affecting the elderly that goes undiagnosed 60% of the time.
There are six known predisposing conditions prior to admission that greatly increase the chance of developing delirium:
- Cognitive impairment
- Sleep deprivation
- Visual impairment
- Hearing impairment
Anytime urinary tract infection is involved there is also a large increase in the chance of delirium developing. When any of these conditions existed before admission the use of appropriate interventions can reduced the development of delirium in the hospital by 40%.
What can you do to help?
Bring glasses, hearing aids (with fresh batteries), and dentures to the hospital. Older persons do better if they can see, hear and eat. Also two or three familiar objects from their home setting will help them orient.
Stay with the hospitalized patient as much as possible. During an acute episode of delirium, relatives should try to arrange shifts so someone can be present around the clock.
Help orient the patient throughout the day. Speak in a calm and reassuring tone of voice telling the patient where they are and why they are there.
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