An early release article in the December 7 release of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) discusses the problem of undiagnosed or untreated hospital-induced delirium. The Canadian Geriatrics Society (CGS) states that these undetected conditions are not only detrimental to patients; they are also costing the health care system millions of dollars.
Delirium, a temporary but severe form of mental impairment, is frequently acquired by elderly patients placed in acute care settings. In fact, the CGS estimates that nearly 33 per cent of people aged 70 years or more will experience delirium in the hospital setting, and that number is even higher for patients in intensive care or for those who have surgery. The episode of delirium can last a few days or a few months, and is often passed off as a natural deterioration due to “old age.”
Hospital-induced delirium can take the form of poor orientation, incoherence, impaired cognition, limited attention span, aggressiveness, or sleepiness and lethargy. Symptoms could vary from moment to moment; therefore testing should be done numerous times and at different times of the day. The CGS notes that variations in behaviour are actually symptomatic of delirium.
There are many factors that contribute to hospital-induced confusion. They include: surgery, infection, isolation, dehydration, poor nutrition, medication, unfamiliar surroundings and people.
To read the CMAJ early release article, “Hospital-induced delirium hits hard” go to www.cmaj.ca.