What is delirium, and what can we do about it? World Delirium Awareness Day 2019

World delirium awareness day 2019 Sky Inside blog header

What is delirium, and what can we do about it? World Delirium Awareness Day 2019

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Delirium is an unsettling experience for the person affected. It is also unsettling for close family, friends and caregivers. This World Delirium Awareness Day we want to help build the conversation around it, by talking about what it is and what we can do to help combat it.

What is delirium?

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, delirium is:

“a state of mental confusion that can happen if you become medically unwell. It is also known as an ‘acute confusional state’.”

The condition can originate from a range of factors. This includes medical issues, surgery, medication and drug intoxication or withdrawal. It can start immediately and tends to ease when the medical issue improves.

When someone suffers, their mental abilities are reduced. They become very confused and find it difficult to concentrate. They can also have a lack of awareness for their surroundings.

As a result, delirium can slow down the recovery of illness, and increase the risk of the need for care, dementia, and even death.

The three types of delirium

Hyperactive – where the person affected can be restless, agitated, have quick mood changes or hallucinations.

Hypoactive – where the person affected may be inactive, drowsy, dazy, or have decreased motor activity.

Mixed – where the person affected shows signs or symptoms from both hyperactive and hypoactive delirium.

What is the difference between delirium and dementia?

Symptoms of delirium can show shortly after the person becomes affected, from a few hours to a few days. It is usually a temporary state.

But when someone becomes affected by dementia, the symptoms can take a long time to develop and show. Dementia is usually irreversible.

Who can become affected?

It can affect anybody. But those who are older, have had previous cognitive impairment and have or have had chronic illnesses have a heightened risk. About one in four older patients in hospital become affected by delirium.

How to help someone with delirium

Below is some advice on how to help someone affected:

  • Remain calm
  • Talk in short, simple sentences
  • Listen to what they say and reassure them
  • Remind them of what is happening
  • If they wear glasses and/or a hearing aid, make sure they have them
  • Make sure there are familiar objects about
  • Someone they know well should be with them
  • Keep a light on at night
  • Manage the lighting levels to reset a normal awake-sleep routine. So their circadian rhythms are less affected by full artificial lighting.

Can it be prevented?

To some extent, the risk of becoming affected can be reduced by optimising physiology (for example, keeping hydrated), orientation, fast treatment of critical illness, improving sensory impairments, and maintaining regular, natural sleep.

How Sky Inside UK products can help

We’re working hard to produce the highest-quality technologies. Our products reduce the risk of suffering when they come into contact with someone who has the condition, or is likely to become affected.

Our digital luminous windows and skylights emulate the natural day’s cycle, thus helping people to maintain a regular pattern. Patients can suffer for a shorter amount of time. Our products are calming and can help people to become less confused and agitated. Our virtual skylights and windows also provide comfort for hospital staff and visitors. They find it easier to relax when with the patient.

Watch this video validation by the Walton Centre, for more information:

The goal of World Delirium Awareness Day is to spread awareness of the condition. It’s also to encourage positive action from those who work in healthcare and communities to help prevent it, recognise the early signs of it, and to care for people with it.