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The Difference Between Delirium and Other Forms of Mental Illness in the Elderly

By December 7, 2018Delirium, Disease, What Is

As we age, we become more susceptible to a variety of physical and mental health conditions. Many of these conditions have symptoms that overlap with each other, which can make it difficult for individuals facing these conditions and their caregivers to identify their actual conditions and provide appropriate care.

If you recognize symptoms of delirium in your elderly loved one, he or she may qualify for free home healthcare services to ensure that he or she receives appropriate supervision and care.

Delirium Defined

Delirium is a state of acute mental confusion and dissociation from one’s environment. There are three recognized types of delirium:

  • Hypoactive delirium, characterized by reduced activity and the sufferer appearing to be in a daze;
  • Hyperactive delirium, the type of delirium characterized by restlessness, mood swings, and a refusal to cooperate with a caregiver’s instructions; and
  • Mixed delirium, where the sufferer experiences symptoms of both hypoactive and hyperactive delirium.

A doctor can diagnose delirium through a battery of tests that include a mental assessment and a neurological exam.

What Causes Delirium?

Delirium can have a variety of causes, such as:

  • Chronic illness;
  • Metabolic changes;
  • Surgery;
  • Exposure to certain toxins;
  • Malnutrition or dehydration;
  • Medication; and
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or other drugs.

Delirium Symptoms

Delirium symptoms can become more and less apparent throughout the day or even over the course of a few weeks. These symptoms are similar to dementia symptoms and include:

  • Reduced awareness of the individual’s environment;
  • Cognitive impairment;
  • Hallucinations;
  • Personality changes;
  • Disturbed sleep habits; and
  • Restlessness.

Delirium versus Other Mental Illnesses

Sometimes, delirium is the result of a mental illness like Alzheimer’s disease. It can also cause a sufferer to experience other mental conditions like depression.

One of the primary differences between delirium and other mental illnesses is that there is no medication or treatment specifically designed to treat delirium. Rather, individuals who suffer from delirium because of other health conditions can receive treatment for those conditions, eliminating their delirium in the process.

When a patient experiences delirium without other conditions, he or she may be advised to take more generalized steps to eliminate the delirium symptoms, like getting a sufficient amount of sleep, eating nutritious meals, and drinking a sufficient amount of water each day to stay hydrated. These are the steps a competent caregiver should take to protect his or her patient from experiencing delirium and from having his or her condition worsen.

Work with a Home Healthcare Service Provider Who is Qualified to Care for Mentally Ill Adults

Naturally, you want the best possible care for yourself or your elderly parent when mental illness makes it impossible to live independently. To get the home healthcare you need at no cost as a beneficiary of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) or the Department of Labor Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (DOL EEOICPA), contact our team at United Energy Workers Healthcare and Four Corners Health Care today to set up your consultation.