The first goal of treatment for delirium is to address any underlying causes or triggers — for example, by stopping use of a particular medication or treating an infection. Treatment then focuses on creating the best environment for healing the body and calming the brain.
Supportive care aims to prevent complications by:
- Protecting the airway
- Providing fluids and nutrition
- Assisting with movement
- Treating pain
- Addressing incontinence
- Avoiding use of physical restraints and bladder tubes
- Avoiding changes in surroundings and caregivers when possible
- Encouraging the involvement of family members or familiar people
Talk with the doctor about avoiding or minimizing the use of drugs that may trigger delirium. Certain medications may be needed to control pain that's causing delirium.
Other types of drugs may help calm a person who misinterprets the environment in a way that leads to severe paranoia, fear or hallucinations, and when severe agitation or confusion occurs. These drugs may be needed when certain behaviors:
- Prevent the performance of a medical exam or treatment
- Endanger the person or threaten the safety of others
- Don't lessen with nondrug treatments
These medications are usually reduced in dose or discontinued when the delirium resolves.
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.