What is Delirium?

Delirium is a sudden onset of confusion and it causes changes in how someone acts and how they think. Some signs of delirium include:

  • Trouble paying attention
  • Sometimes act confused, and other times seem okay
  • Become restless and upset
  • Have trouble staying awake, sleeping more
  • See or hear things that are not there

Delirium Statistics

In 2022, the Regional Geriatric Program of Toronto reported that up to 60 per cent of older adults who are hospitalized will develop delirium. According to the American Delirium Society, delirium effects up to:

  • 25 per cent of medical inpatients
  • 50 per cent of surgery patients
  • 75 per cent of ICU patients

Queensway Carleton Hospital’s Corporate Delirium Policy enables staffs’ identification, prevention, assessment, and management of delirium from an interdisciplinary approach includes nursing, physician, and allied health staff.



Delirium Prevention Strategies

Delirium is preventable! For all older adults, use these proven strategies to help prevent delirium. If delirium develops, continuing to use these strategies will support the older adult.

  • Stimulating the mind: Promote daily socializing, reading, listening to music, completing mind challenge games (such as crossword puzzles), and activities or conversations that help remind older adults what day/month/year it is.
  • Moving: Promote physical activity – at least three times a day.
  • Sleeping well: Use techniques to promote relaxation and sufficient sleep.
  • Seeing and hearing: Ensure hearing aids and glasses are available at all times, if needed.
  • Staying hydrated: Ensure plenty of fluids are taken throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
  • Eating: Ensure nutritious food is available throughout the day, and promote eating with others if possible.

Delirium Resources