How To Tell The Difference Between Delirium And Dementia

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Mental confusion and irrational emotions can be indications of both delirium and dementia, which makes it all too easy to mix up the two illnesses with each other. Nonetheless, they are two distinctly different medical issues, it’s vitally important that medical staff and caregivers understand the differences. Delirium can be life-threatening. It often affects elderly patients and is a frequent complication in hospitals.

How can you recognize delirium?

Delirium is an acute medical issue. The patient may display confusion, lack of attention or ability to focus, muddled speech and even hallucinations. Delirium is diagnosed through behavioral observations, but medical help is required if someone displays likely symptoms. It can be a temporary and reversible condition if the root source is quickly treated.

Consider the following list for common triggers of delirium, especially in the elderly population:

  • Head trauma
  • Infections
  • Drug interactions
  • Dehydration
  • Liver failure
  • Brain tumors

Any medical clinic or hospital that provides care to seniors may see older people suffering from delirium. It can also be prompted by alcohol or drug abuse, UTIs, pneumonia, or other illnesses. Also problematic sometimes are medical or dental procedures with anesthesia and even sleep deprivation.

Symptoms of delirium:

  • Unexpected emotional outbursts
  • Extreme or fluctuating mood swings
  • Fast change in behavior/attitude
  • Inability to stay focused in a conversation
  • Jumbled thinking / cognitive problems
  • Delusions or hallucinations

How is delirium differentiated from dementia?

At a glance, delirium and dementia seem similar, but delirium starts quickly and fluctuates from day to day or hour to hour, whereas dementia presents slowly over a long period of time. Dementia is irreversible, but delirium can be temporary with proper immediate treatment.

Why is it important to understand the difference?

Delirium is typically a warning symptom of an underlying medical issue, so it needs to be treated as quickly as possible before it leads to permanent or life-threatening problems.

Unfortunately, delirium is often unrecognized by medical staff since symptoms could easily be attributed to dementia. It is a serious medical problem that needs attention quickly. Emergency help must be called when symptoms of delirium are noticed.

Elderly dementia patients often suffer from delirium while hospitalized, but once the cause is treated, they feel better. During that time of treatment, dementia care provider can do their best to set a quiet, safe and comfortable environment for the patient.

Does the senior in your life need dementia care in Knoxville, TN?

Call Home Care Assistance of Knoxville at (865) 229-4981 and let us provide you with a top of the line dementia care provider for your loved one.

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