Cognitive impairment is an important safety and quality issue. Cognitive impairment is common, but is often not identified, or it is dismissed or misdiagnosed. For example, symptoms of delirium may be dismissed as a normal part of ageing, or as dementia, potentially preventing further assessment and action.
Cognitive impairment in hospital is often associated with adverse outcomes, such as falls. For some people with cognitive impairment and for their carers and families, a hospital stay can be a negative experience. Staff may struggle to provide the right care in the absence of appropriate education and training.
The first step to making a person’s stay safer is to understand the different forms of cognitive impairment, the people who are at risk, and what steps can be taken to reduce harm.