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Telling the difference between dementia and delirium

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Patients who suffer from delirium are more likely to have poor outcomes according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published last week.

A third of patients admitted to ICU were found to develop delirium. These patients were found to have an increased risk of dying during their hospital admission, have a longer stay in hospital, and cognitive impairment after discharge.

The researchers outline the long-term consequences of delirium, which is associated with increased mortality, functional disability and dementia.

As identified in this review the risk of delirium is particularly high in those admitted to ICU and it is also more of a risk to older people, those with terminal illness and those undergoing major surgery.

Delirium can be overlooked and misdiagnosed as dementia and as a result not be treated appropriately. Our new Nursing Times Learning unit on Dementia, delirium and depression clearly explains the differences between these three conditions and how they should be managed.

The systematic review clearly shows the impact of delirium on both recovery and long-term health. Update your knowledge of this condition by working through our online unit, which was developed in association with the Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling. The case scenario format will help you to translate the theory into practice.


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