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Keeping a healthy mind in hospital

A patient's guide to preventing delirium in hospital


What is delirium?

  • A state of mental confusion that develops quickly
  • The level of confusion may change throughout the day
  • It is a serious and common condition for older persons in hospital
  • It is usually temporary but may last for several weeks

Features of delirium may include:

  • Being restless and upset
  • Forgetfulness and having trouble concentrating
  • Seeing and hearing things that are not there
  • Mixing up day and night
  • Acting differently than normal
  • Trying to climb out of bed unsafely
  • Being drowsier than normal
  • Speech that is not clear

How families and caregivers can help you keep a healthy mind in hospital:

1. Maintain an active mind

  • Keep track of the time of day, date and where you are located in Sunnybrook Hospital
  • Participate in making decisions about your care
  • Ask your family to
    • Post a calendar in your room
    • Bring in a bedside clock and a few familiar objects from home (eg. photos)
  • Engage in activities such as: reading, playing games/ cards, word puzzles, looking at photo albums
  • Talk about current events or your family history
  • Ask family and friends to visit

2. Maintain an active body

  • Move your arms and legs while in bed or chair as much as you can
  • Check with your health care team if you are safe to get up on your own. If you are allowed:
    • Walk around the unit 3 or more times a day
    • Involve yourself in your personal care such as: toileting, grooming, washing

3. Maintain a healthy diet

  • Check with your health care team if you have any special diet requirements or restrictions. If not:
    • Eat as much of your meals as you can
    • Drink fluids throughout the day
  • Sit up in a chair for your meals if you can

4. Maintain healthy hearing

  • If you require hearing aids, make sure you have them and you are wearing them
  • If you need assistance with this please let a member of your health care team know

5. Maintain healthy vision

  • If you require glasses, make sure you have them and you are wearing them even if you are spending more time awake in bed
  • Make sure your glasses are clean

6. Maintain healthy sleep routines

  • Try to stay awake during the day
  • Stop drinking fluids 2 hours before going to bed
  • Avoid caffeine in the evening
  • Bring in your own pillow and/or blanket from home

If you notice a change in your thinking, memory or personality please notify a member of your health care team.