Information for the public

Preventing delirium

If you are at risk of delirium you should not be moved to a different room, ward, or bed on a ward unless absolutely necessary because you could become confused about where you are. You should be looked after by a team of professionals you are familiar with. You should have a health check to find out about any problems that could contribute to delirium developing (detailed below) within 24 hours of you going into to hospital or long-term care.


To help stop you being confused about where you are there should be appropriate lighting where you are staying and any signs should be clear (for instance, showing where the toilets are). You should also be able to easily see a clock and a calendar.

Your care team should talk to you and explain who they are, and what care they are giving you. They should make sure you understand where and who you are, and what is happening to you. They should also work with you to improve your understanding and memory. Family and friends should also be able to visit regularly.

Dehydration, poor diet and constipation

You should be encouraged to drink so you don't become dehydrated or constipated. If necessary, you can be given fluids though a drip.

If you have problems with your diet (for instance, if you are not eating enough or the right kinds of foods, or have problems eating or swallowing), your care team should follow advice NICE has published about nutrition support in adults. You can find out more about this from 'Nutrition support in adults' (NICE clinical guideline 32), which is available from If you wear dentures, your care team should make sure they fit properly.

Difficulty breathing

You should be checked to make sure you are getting enough oxygen and be given extra oxygen if you are not.


If you have an infection it should be identified and treated.

You should not be offered a urinary catheter unless absolutely necessary.

Your care team should follow advice NICE has published on infection control. You can find out more about this from NICE clinical guideline 139, which is available from

Difficulty moving around

You should be encouraged to walk around if you can, and be given walking aids if you need them. If you have had an operation, you should be encouraged to get moving as soon as possible. You should be shown exercises to help reduce stiffness and keep your joints flexible – these can be done whether you can walk or not.


You should be asked if you are in pain and, if you have difficulty telling your care team about it, signs of pain should be looked for. If you are in pain your care team should make sure you have the pain relief you need.

Prescribed medication

Some types of medication can contribute to delirium. Your healthcare team should discuss with you what medication you are taking and decide whether it is possible to stop any medication that could contribute to delirium.

Difficulty hearing or seeing

If the cause of your hearing or sight problems can be treated, it should be (for instance, if your ears are blocked with wax). You should have hearing aids or glasses if you need them.


You should be able to sleep at night without being disturbed so noise should be kept to a minimum during this time. Medication rounds and nursing or medical procedures should be timed so that they don't disturb your sleep, if possible.

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