Medical Alerts for Seniors with Delirium

Medical Alerts for Seniors with Delirium

time icon 6 min read update icon Sept. 28, 2019


Delirium is a condition characterized by a disturbance in regular mental abilities. Individuals who experience delirium usually experience episodes of confusion and reduced awareness of their surroundings. Delirium may be difficult to identify immediately, since these changes in behavior are often attributed to the senior’s age, dementia history or mental disorders. 

The onset of delirium is typically rapid, appearing within hours or days, and is often linked to severe or chronic medical illnesses.

Delirium Overview

Delirium occurs when the sending and receiving of brain signals become impaired. The condition is most likely the result of medical a factor that has triggered a malfunction in brain activity. A single or multiple causes, such as a medical condition or medication toxicity, may be the cause of delirium. In some instances, the causes may not be identified.However, it must be noted that when a condition results in a hospital stay, especially intensive care or after surgery, the risk of delirium is increased.

Delirium may last from a few hours to several weeks or months. If the issues contributing to delirium are managed, the recovery time is often minimal. The rate of recovery depends on the mental and physical health status before onset. Seniors with dementia may experience a considerable decline in thinking and memory skills. Seniors in stronger states of health are more likely to recover sooner.

Delirium Impairment

Delirium usually occurs over a few hours or a few days. Its impairments can fluctuate throughout the days, weeks or months. There may also be periods when no symptoms occur. Delirium is a common disorder that often goes underdiagnosed and mismanaged. The disorder is becoming more prevalent, due to the aging population. Impairments have a tendency to worsen during the night, when surroundings are less familiar.

The severity of the cognitive impairment can have long-lasting consequences, which may have a negative impact on an individual’s ability to function in the areas of work, social functioning, driving, money management and taking medication. In severe cases, impairments can limit independence and result in seniors becoming reliant on family, friends and institutional support. Only minimal research has been performed on the impairments of delirium.

People with delirium may experience a variety of impairments, including:

  • Inability to focus
  • Obsessing over an idea
  • Being easily distracted by minute things
  • Being withdrawn, with minimum interaction
Medical Alert Benefits

Seniors that suffer from serious, chronic or terminal illnesses may not regain the normal function levels or thinking skills which they had prior to the onset of delirium. Medical alerts can provide a blanket of needed security, as delirium in seriously ill seniors is also most likely to lead to declining health, extended recovery times, need for institutional care and an increased risk of death. In the event of an emergency, medical alerts can help to ensure that help will be available.

Common symptoms experienced by those with delirium include:

  • Poor memory
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty recalling words or speaking
  • Rambling speech
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Irritability or anger
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Apathy
  • Unpredictable moods
  • Personality changes
  • Trouble understanding speech
  • Difficulty reading or writing
  • Hallucinating
  • Restlessness, agitation or combative behavior
  • Being withdrawn and quiet
  • Slowed movement or lethargy
  • Disturbed sleep habits
  • Irregular sleep-wake cycles
Safety Without Medical Alerts

Individuals may notice issues with their memory and thought processes as a result of delirium. Delirium symptoms will often clear in a few days to a few weeks. For this reason, some individuals choose not to use medical alerts. Many of the symptoms that accompany this condition can be managed without professional medical care. There are several ways to help sufferers manage the symptoms of delirium.

  • Paranoia: Medication can be used to help reduce the effects and symptoms of paranoia. In some instances, medications can cause symptoms to disappear completely. If an individual is able to minimize the effects of delirium, they are more apt to function normally.
  • Poor memory: A symptom of delirium is poor memory. Individuals can help to curb memory issues by utilizing shopping lists, written schedules and notes.
  • Irritability or anger: Caffeine can provide temporary relief from drowsiness, but it can also have negative side effects such as feelings of irritability and anger. To reduce these symptoms, caffeine intake should be reduced or eliminated completely.
Delirium Precautions:
  • Target risks: A successful route to preventing delirium is to specifically target risk factors that may trigger a delirium episode. Clinical environments, frequent change, invasive procedures, loud noises and poor lighting can all trigger delirium episodes.
  • Promote good sleep habits: Individuals that suffer from delirium should adopt a sleep schedule. Bed and wake-up times should be consistent, even during weekends. A consistent sleep habit helps to regulate the body's clock, thus promoting restful sleep.
  • Remain calm and well-oriented: Exercise is one of the most important things that can be done to promote calmness. Through exercise, mental stress can be relieved, as stress hormones are released during exercise.Exercising also promotes the release of endorphins, which are chemicals in the body that improve mood and serve as natural painkillers.
Delirium Medical Alerts Conclusion

Delirium is a sudden onset of mental confusion that causes a noticeable change in behavior. Medical alerts can aid in preventing medical incidents that may occur during delirium by notifying medical personnel at the onset. The causes of delirium are numerous and varied, and an episode may occur at any time. Medical alerts can serve as the link needed to alert trained medical personnel immediately.

Early identification and prompt action is often needed for an optimal outcome. Medical alerts can aid in reducing delirium’s severity, while also increasing the recovery rate, by getting help to your door quickly.

T. Mashae Pearson - Senior Advisor

Shae is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.