If you're a relative or caregiver of someone at risk of or recovering from delirium, you can take steps to help improve the person's health, prevent a recurrence and manage responsibilities.
Promote good sleep habits
To promote good sleep habits:
- Provide a calm, quiet environment
- Keep inside lighting appropriate for the time of day
- Plan for uninterrupted periods of sleep at night
- Help the person keep a regular daytime schedule
- Encourage self-care and activity during the day
Promote calmness and orientation
To help the person remain calm and well-oriented:
- Provide a clock and calendar and refer to them regularly throughout the day
- Communicate simply about any change in activity, such as time for lunch or time for bed
- Keep familiar and favorite objects and pictures around, but avoid a cluttered environment
- Approach the person calmly
- Identify yourself or other people regularly
- Avoid arguments
- Use comfort measures, such as reassuring touch, when appropriate
- Keep noise levels and other distractions to a minimum
- Provide and maintain eyeglasses and hearing aids
Prevent complicating problems
Help prevent medical problems by:
- Giving the person the proper medication on a regular schedule
- Providing plenty of fluids and a healthy diet
- Encouraging regular physical activity
- Getting treatment for potential problems, such as infection or metabolic imbalances, early
Caring for the caregiver
Providing regular care for a person with delirium can be scary and exhausting. Take care of yourself, too.
- Consider joining a support group for caregivers.
- Learn more about the condition.
- Ask for educational materials or other resources from a health care provider, nonprofit organizations, community health services or government agencies.
- Share caregiving with family and friends who are familiar the person so you get a break.
Examples of organizations that may provide helpful information include the National Family Caregivers Association and the National Institute on Aging.
Sept. 05, 2015
- 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.