The Problem of Delirium in the Elderly

  • Suzanne WassEmail author


  • Delirium in the elderly is common and all elderly people presenting with confusion should be presumed to have delirium until proven otherwise.

  • Delirium in older people is multifactorial. Particular attention should be made to identify all precipitating factors, and targeted treatment should be given for reversible causes.

  • First-line management for the symptoms of delirium should focus on non-pharmacological strategies.

  • Sedative medication should be used as a last resort and reserved for those with severe agitation or distressing symptoms, whose behavioural disturbances may pose a risk to themselves or others.

  • Delirium screening and prevention strategies should be maintained throughout the patients’ journey to minimize the long-term risks of increased mortality, cognitive and functional decline and the psychological impacts that are associated with an episode of delirium.




Activities of daily living


Blood pressure


Blood sugar level


Confusion assessment method


Central nervous system


C-reactive protein


Computerized tomography


Cerebrovascular accident


Chest X-ray




Electroconvulsive therapy


Emergency department




Electrolytes, urea and creatinine


Full blood count


General practitioner


Intensive care unit


Indwelling catheter


Liver function tests


Lumbar puncture


Mild cognitive impairment


Mini Mental State Examination


Magnetic resonance imaging


Over the counter


Short-term memory


Thyroid stimulating hormone


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Copyright information

© The Editor(s)  2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Calvary Mater NewcastleNewcastleAustralia

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