Delirium may last only a few hours or as long as several weeks or months. If issues contributing to delirium are addressed, the recovery time is often shorter.
The degree of recovery depends to some extent on the health and mental status before the onset of delirium. People with dementia, for example, may experience a significant overall decline in memory and thinking skills. People in better health are more likely to fully recover.
People with other serious, chronic or terminal illnesses may not regain the levels of thinking skills or functioning that they had before the onset of delirium. Delirium in seriously ill people is also more likely to lead to:
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- General decline in health
- Poor recovery from surgery
- Need for institutional care
- Increased risk of death, especially with hypoactive delirium
- Delirium. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Sept. 2, 2015.
- Delirium. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/delirium-and-dementia/delirium. Accessed June 24, 2015.
- Francis J, et al. Diagnosis of delirium and confusional states. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 25, 2015.
- Francis J. Delirium and acute confusional states: Prevention, treatment, and prognosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 25, 2015.
- So far away: Twenty questions and answers about long-distance caregiving. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/so-far-away-twenty-questions-and-answers-about-long-distance-caregiving/support. Accessed June 24, 2015.
- Hshieh TT, et al. Effectiveness of multicomponent nonpharmacological delirium interventions: A meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015;175:512.
- Takahashi PY (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 7, 2015.
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 9, 2015.