Avoid Delirium During Recovery from Acute Medical Events
Up to 30 percent of hospitalizations result in some form of delirium, a condition where patients become extremely confused and agitated during a hospital stay. While the delirium itself is temporary, 40 percent of patients who experience it die within a year, and delirious patients are at higher risk for dementia, longer hospital stays and nursing home admission.
Fortunately, researchers have identified effective preventive measures against delirium, including at-home recovery after acute hospitalization.
Hospital delirium is often a terrifying experience for patients who experience the delirium as a vivid nightmare, and for family members who must watch their loved one transform into what seems like a different person. Elderly patients are especially susceptible to delirium, and often report wild hallucinations and paranoia. Patients experiencing delirium can even injure themselves and others while acting out violently.
Patients with vision impairment, severe illness or an existing cognitive impairment are among those at greatest risk for delirium. In addition to inadvertently resulting from medical treatment, among the precipitating causes of delirium during recovery are:
- Use of physical restraints
- Use of more than three medications
- Use of a bladder catheter
The American Academy of Family Physicians has identified some key ways to prevent delirium during recovery, including:
- Recovery in a private room, where uninterrupted sleep is possible
- Controlling sources of excess noise
- Ensuring consistency in staff
- Having familiar objects in a patient’s room
- Ensuring that patients have glasses, hearing aids and dentures
In-home care is an effective way to ensure that patients due not suffer from delirium during recovery. In an Australian study of frail elderly patients, those who recovered from acute hospitalizations at home were less likely to experience delirium and took, on average, a week less to recover.
Delirium can be a frightening experience for patients and their families, which can jeopardize a full recovery and even result in death. Recovering from an acute medical event in a familiar environment, such as one’s home, can reduce a patient’s chance of experiencing delirium.
- written by HotelRecovery contributing blog writer