Delirium is sometimes called ‘acute confusion’; it begins suddenly and is often caused by an illness, such as a bladder infection. It is important to tell the health care team if you feel unwell; for example, if you feel feverish, have a cough, or have pain when you urinate (pass water). Early treatment may avoid delirium.

A person who is delirious may:

  • have problems with listening and understanding
  • be disorientated (eg not know where they are)
  • speak unclearly or ‘ramble’
  • be unable to carry out their usual activities
  • be more withdrawn or more active than usual.
If you become delirious, your health care team will treat the cause of the delirium, try to ease any distress and keep you safe.

Advice for carers

Delirium can often be caused by treatable conditions. If the older person has dementia, a sudden increase in confusion can indicate delirium. Delirium is also common in very advanced illness. If you think that the older person has delirium, have someone stay with them to avoid falls and to comfort them. Arrange for them to see a doctor.