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What is delirium?

Delirium is:

  • a state of mental confusion that develops quickly and may change throughout the day.
  • a serious and common condition for older persons in hospital.
  • usually short term and continues to slowly get better over many weeks, even after you go home from the hospital.

It is normal for patients to return home from hospital with some effects of delirium.

Being in your own home with people that you know can help you feel safe and comfortable. Being at home can also help to support your recovery.


What can my family and I do to help my recovery?

1. Keep an active mind

  • Use a calendar, clock or electronic device (cell phone or tablet) to keep track of the date and time.
  • Take part in activities such as reading, playing games/cards, word puzzles, or looking at photo albums.
  • Talk about current events with your family.
  • Ask family and friends to visit in small groups so that there will not be too much noise and confusion.
  • Try to be around natural light during the day by sitting near a window or going outside, as this helps your mind to rest at night.

2. Keep an active body

  • Try to be as independent as possible by doing your own personal care activities such as dressing, grooming, bathing. Ask for help with these activities when you need it.
  • Try to return to your normal daily routines as much as possible, such as getting up in the morning to have breakfast in your kitchen.
  • Move your arms and legs while in bed or on a chair as much as you can.
  • Try to stay active throughout the day by taking short walks around your home with help or any walking device you may need.
  • Make sure you are going to the washroom every few hours to empty your bladder regularly and help avoid accidents.
  • Pay attention to your bowels so that you won’t become constipated.

3. Keep a healthy diet

  • Eat healthy foods and drink water regularly.
  • Eat your meals sitting at a table if you can.
  • Stop or limit drinking alcohol. Alcohol can have bad effects on the brain’s healing and can raise your risk of falls.

4. Take care of hearing and vision needs

  • If you need hearing aids and/or glasses, make sure you have them and you wear them.
  • Make sure your glasses are clean and your hearing aids are kept dry and have working batteries.

5. Keep normal sleep routines

  • Try to stay awake during the day so that you can sleep well at night. Limit naps to 30-45 minutes during the day.
  • Stop drinking fluids two hours before going to bed so you don’t have to use the bathroom too many times at night.
  • If possible, ask a family member or caregiver to help you get ready for bed at night.
  • Keep a nightlight on and make sure there is a clear path to the bathroom, to make sure you don’t fall.
  • Don’t have anything with caffeine in the late afternoon.

6. Stay organized

  • Take your medications on time. This is important. Use reminder alarms, lists, “dosette boxes” (weekly medication organizers) or medication blister packages to help keep you organized. Talk to your local pharmacist if you need help with this.
  • Keep the name and phone number of your family doctor near the phone so you can call if you have any questions.

Sometimes it is helpful for you or your family to use a journal to keep track of changes in your health and share these with your medical team.

Get help if you or your family notice that your condition is getting worse.

If you have any concerns about your health, like the ability to think clearly and to remember things as you usually do, please contact your doctor or a member of your healthcare team for advice as soon as possible.