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J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2012 Jul;50(7):17-20. doi: 10.3928/02793695-20120605-05. Epub 2012 Jun 15.

Delirium: a very common problem you may not recognize.

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  • 1Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Viera, Florida 32940, USA.


Older adults with multiple pre-existing conditions are admitted to hospitals with acute illnesses and injuries every day. Delirium is not recognized by clinicians across health care settings. With awareness of risk factors and knowledge of delirium, nurses can play a pivotal role in the early identification, treatment, and, most important, prevention of delirium in older adults. Nurses often display a lack of knowledge related to delirium and the complex symptoms that appear differently in the presence of other complicating co-morbid conditions in aging adults. Nurses play a crucial role in keeping patients safe and ensuring optimal outcomes, regardless of the setting. With the growing population of older adults and the expected increases in chronic illness and dementia, delirium is a problem nurses are likely to experience in all practice settings. Knowing what to look for facilitates recognizing the risk and acting early to minimize (or even prevent) delirium.

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