Delirium Clinical Care Standard

Delirium is an acute change in mental status that is common among older people in hospital. Characterised by a disturbance of consciousness, attention, cognition and perception that develops over a short period of time (usually hours to a few days), delirium is a serious condition and is associated with increased risk of harm.


Compared with people of the same age who do not have delirium, people with delirium have an increased risk of death, increased risk of falls, a greater chance of being discharged to a higher dependency of care, and a greater chance of developing dementia.

About 10% of Australians aged over 70 years have delirium at the time of admission to hospital, and a further 8% develop delirium during a hospital admission. The incidence of delirium is higher in certain hospital settings, with more than 30% of patients with delirium following hip and cardiac surgery or during a stay in intensive care.

Despite being a common condition, delirium is poorly recognised and cases are often missed.

Delirium Clinical Care Standard

The Delirium Clinical Care Standard provides guidance to consumers, clinicians and health services on delivering appropriate care to people at risk of, or with, delirium.

Review of the Delirium Clinical Care Standard – 2020

The Delirium Clinical Care Standard (2016) and indicator set is currently being updated. It is expected the updated version will be available in mid 2021. The review will incorporate any changes in guidelines or quality improvement priorities since the first version was published in 2016.

In 2019, the Commission engaged Professor Sarah Hilmer, University of Sydney, to conduct a literature review to better understand the use of antipsychotic medicines for people aged 65 years and over. This literature review will help inform the review of the Delirium Clinical Care Standard, and other work of the Commission.

Publication, report or update

Feedback from clinicians, health service organisations and consumers will also be considered as part of the review.

If you have any comments or suggestions about the current Delirium Clinical Care Standard or indicators, please email

Publication, report or update

Publication, report or update

Indicator Specification

This resource provides a set of suggested indicators to assist with local implementation of the Delirium Clinical Care Standard. Clinicians and health services can use the indicators to monitor implementation of the quality statements, and support improvements as needed.

Implementation Resources

These resources can be used to promote and explain what the Delirium Clinical Care Standard means to health services, clinicians, patients and their carers:

You can also watch video presentations from the launch of the Delirium Clinical Care Standard, 15 July 2016.

Related work

The Delirium Clinical Care Standard complements several other national initiatives to improve the care of patients with cognitive impairment, led by the Commission: