As many as half of hospital patients age 65 and older develop delirium.
Once thought of as something ordinary — something that “just happens” to people as they get older — today, geriatricians and hospitals across the U.S. recognize the dangers of delirium and are increasingly creating programs and protocols to prevent, detect and treat it.
Delirium refers to a change in the brain’s neurochemistry that causes a person to become highly confused and unable to think clearly. People with delirium often can’t remember recent events or where they are. The condition usually comes on quickly, but the symptoms can come and go.
Besides hospitals, delirium is also common in long-term care facilities and often one of the first signs that a resident has become very ill, says Dr. Paul Takahashi, a geriatrician at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.