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Recognising and treating delirium

September 10, 2012 12:58 PM

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A new guideline has been launched across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to assist with the recognition and diagnosis of delirium.
The new delirium guideline is important as older people suffering from delirium can be mistaken for having dementia. 

NHSGGC’s Alzheimer's Scotland nurse consultant Sandra Shields explained:  “This guideline is designed to help staff better recognise the signs and symptoms of delirium in older patients who are often admitted to hospital with a number of medical conditions so they are already quite ill, they are in pain, can have a high temperature and are often dehydrated – these are classic symptoms of someone who could be suffering from delirium.  It is a common condition that can be associated with poor outcomes so if not treated it can become a more complex condition for older people. 

“Delirium can often be misdiagnosed as dementia and this guideline therefore will enable us to ensure the correct diagnosis and treatment.  Any patient who is suffering from delirium can also present significant safety risks for themselves due to an increased risk of falling or injury.

“The aim of the new guideline is to bring about positive change in the care and management of patients with the condition, we want staff to have a better understanding of delirium and improve negative perceptions about it.”

In order to combat some of these problems, wards and departments across NHSGGC will be using the new guidelines to help spot and manage patients with delirium more appropriately and improve outcomes for them in the longer term. 

Sandra added:  “We try to assess people within 24 hours of admission, looking out specifically for the clinical factors contributing to delirium.  Then with the team we look at tailoring care to the individual patient’s needs and the diagnosis of delirium is recorded on both their hospital and GP records. 

“Of most importance when treating someone with delirium is ensuring they understand what is happening and why.  So explaining who you are, where they are, why they are in hospital so they feel reassured.  It’s important to remember that delirium is common and is usually temporary.”

The guideline was created by the NHSGGC acute division dementia group which has been instrumental in ensuring Scotland’s dementia strategy and standards of care are being implemented across all our hospitals and drive forward improvements in care. 

For more information contact the press office, tel:  0141 201 4429 or email:  [email protected]


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Last Updated: 11 November 2021