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What is delirium?

What is delirium?

Everyone presenting to hospital or long-term care should be assessed for their risk of developing delirium.

Delirium is a change in a person's mental state or consciousness, which is often shown as confusion, difficulties with understanding and memory, or personality changes. There are different kinds of delirium – some people may be agitated and restless or have delusions and hallucinations, others may just become unusually sleepy.

Delirium is a common and serious illness in people in hospital or long-term care (nursing or residential care). However, it can be prevented and treated if dealt with urgently.

It usually develops over 1 or 2 days and is usually temporary. Some people may have delirium when they first come to hospital or long-term care, or it may develop during a hospital stay or long-term care.

People who develop delirium can be at risk of other problems such as falls and pressure sores. People who are already in hospital may need to stay for longer and are more likely to go into long-term care.

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