If you are at risk of delirium, you and your family or carer will be given information and advice about delirium and how it can be prevented. You should be given this information in a way that you can understand it, whether it is written information or someone talking to you. Being prepared and acting early can help to reduce the effects of delirium. You and your family or carer will be encouraged to alert your healthcare team of any changes in your behaviour, thinking or physical condition. The health service organisation will have systems in place to take action if your health worsens. It is important that you and your family or carer know what to expect, what you can do if this happens and how to ask for help.
Your family or carer can provide valuable information to the clinicians caring for you and should be involved in your care if you wish them to be. An interpreter can be used for these conversations if required. If you develop delirium, the plan for your care will be discussed with you and your family or carer, and informed consent will be sought for any treatment you receive. The aim of your care will be to reduce your symptoms and any distress experienced with delirium.
People with delirium may:
- Appear confused and forgetful
- Be unable to pay attention
- Be different from their normal selves
- Be very agitated, quiet and withdrawn, sleepy, or a combination of these
- Have rapid and unpredictable mood changes
- Be unsure of the time of day or where they are
- Have changes to their sleeping habits, such as staying awake at night and being drowsy during the daytime
- Feel fearful, distressed, upset, irritable, angry or sad
- Have hallucinations and see frightening things that are not there but seem very real to them
- Lose control of their bladder or bowels
- Have delusions or become paranoid, and strongly believe things that are not true – for example, they may believe that someone is trying to physically harm them or has poisoned their food.
These symptoms fluctuate during the day, and may worsen in the evening or night.
Family members or carers can support you because they are familiar to you. They can:
- Reassure you
- Remind you about eating and drinking
- Bring in familiar objects
- Help the healthcare team to get to know you and understand what you are normally like.