Prof Emma Reynish's picture

By Prof. Emma Reynish

March 13th, 2017

What is delirium?


15 March is world delirium day. 

World delirium day have published a factsheet for family and friends on delirium 

What is delirium?

Delirium is a very rapid decline in brain function. It involves a mix of: reduced ability to concentrate, sleepiness, agitation, hallucinations or altered beliefs.

Delirium develops over hours or days.

What causes delirium?

Delirium is caused by illness, injuries (like a broken bone after a fall), surgery, or medicines.

Who gets delirium?

Anyone can get delirium. Older age and dementia greatly increase the chance of becoming delirious.

Is delirium the same as dementia?

Delirium is different from dementia. Delirium comes on quickly and usually resolves over days. Dementia develops slowly (months) and mostly cannot be reversed.

If it can be reversed, what is the big deal?

Even a brief course of delirium increases the risk of poor recovery from illness, nursing home placement, and possibly dementia and death. Delirium is stressful for patients with frightening beliefs like thinking they are in prison and in danger. Families and caregivers are distressed by delirium as well.

How common is delirium?

1 in 4 older hospital patients will get delirium.

How is delirium treated?

Promptly targeting the underlying illnesses or adjusting medications that may have triggered delirium are the most important treatments.

My nurses and doctors know about delirium, right?

Delirium is still undiagnosed in a majority of cases. Unfortunately, not all healthcare professionals know enough about delirium.

Delirium and dementia

The dementia and ageing research group at the University of Stirling is currently conducting research on the impact of delirium with or without dementia on the outcome of the older persons in the acute hospital setting.



Special offer one day only

If you want to know more about delirium why not download our resource Delirium at the reduced price of £1 (RRP £10) or purchase the printed version on Amazon the reduced price of £3 (RRP £20) - these offers are available on World Delirium Day March 15 only.


More from DSDC News
12th Oct
Ailidh Aikman
20th Sep
Ailidh Aikman
10th Aug