Delirium is characterized by an acute onset and a fluctuating nature of mental status changes. These changes include decreased ability to focus, sustain and shift attention, and either disorganized thinking or an altered level of consciousness. Changes generally resolve when precipitating causes are removed. Symptoms can include plucking at bedclothes, poor attention, incoherent speech, abnormal associations and slow vague thoughts. (Mahoney, et.al. 2000)
Research has documented the failure of health professionals to recognize and treat delirium in older adults. The failure to treat delirium results in prolonged hospitalization and rehabilitation, and increased likelihood of rehospitalization. Delirium frequently occurs in older adults who are hospitalized or who enter the Emergency Department. Delirium is most frequently associated with urinary catheterization or infection and addition of more than 3 medications. Other risk factors include cognitive impairment such as dementia, sleep deprivation, immobilization, vision or hearing impairment and dehydration. (Foreman, M.D. & Wakefield, B. Culp, K. & Milisen, K (2001) (Inouye, S. K. (2006).