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Delirium is a very common problem among critically ill patients, particularly among older adults or those with risk factors such as brain injury or chronic alcohol use. Critical illness, discomfort and medications are a few of the many possible factors that contribute to the development of delirium. Delirium can lengthen the duration of both the ICU and the hospital length of stay, make it more difficult for the patient to breathe without a ventilator, and places the patient at risk for self-removal of life-saving tubes and equipment.
While some delirious patients may be agitated or paranoid, others can appear “flat” and non-responsive. Delirium may present with agitation, paranoia, or a very flat and distant affect. Patients may hallucinate and interpret real situations in bizarre ways (e.g. it is common for patients to think that staff members are trying to harm them). Family members may be the first to notice subtle changes in the patient’s behavior.
CCTC is part of a national critical care initiative aimed at prevention, recognition, and early treatment of delirium. Family members may be able to help prevent or minimize delirium through the following strategies:
Last Reviewed: October 23, 2014