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Treating Delirium with Transitional Care at Walker Methodist Health Center

The outward signs of delirium and dementia can look similar, which is why a medical diagnosis is important. In both cases, a person may appear confused, forgetful, anxious, or irrational. However, delirium has a sudden onset, rather than a gradual one. Read more about delirium, what causes it, and how you can help your loved ones facing delirium.

What is Delirium?

Dilirium Transitional Care at Walker Methodist Health Center.jpgDelirium is a medical diagnosis used to describe sudden changes in behavior, memory, or thinking. It is not a new condition, and the term comes from the Greek meaning “off the track”. It is temporary, treatable, reversible, preventable, and common among older adults.

Many times a family member will say “Mom’s dementia got so much worse during her hospital stay”. What they are describing is delirium—a sudden and noticeable difference in behavior. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are slow, progressive diseases that do not suddenly accelerate. As of now, those diseases do not have a cure. Delirium is different.

Diagnosing and Treating Delirium

The best way to clear delirium is to identify and address the underlying cause. The usual culprits are:

  • Certain medications
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Dehydration

All of these can be treated fairly easily by changing or discontinuing medications, administering antibiotics, or increasing fluid intake.

Physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals can identify underlying causes and diagnose delirium. But, the best person to recognize delirium is a friend or family member who sees the changes in behavior or thinking. They can alert the medical team to these changes because the medical team may have a more difficult time knowing what “normal” is for their patient. 

If delirium is a new term to you, it should not be mistaken for dementia, depression, anxiety, or other contributors to changes in behavior or thinking. Knowing more about delirium is important for making sure your loved one gets the appropriate care and getting them back on track and enjoying life

Can a person have dementia and delirium?

Absolutely. Delirium is more common among persons with dementia. Because of this, families sometimes assume a person’s dementia has suddenly become worse during a hospitalization or life-changing circumstance when in fact, they could be suffering from delirium.

While treatments for delirium will not reverse the progression of dementia, they help reduce the confusion caused by delirium, meaning activities of daily living are not dramatically changed.

Delirium Care & Transition

Once the cause(s) of delirium are identified, treatment is quick and effective. Typically, medications that contribute to the confusion are changed or medicines to treat underlying causes - such as an UTI - are added. Therapies to reduce anxiety and confusion like aromatherapy, music therapy, or healing touch can also be effective. Time and a return to familiar surroundings also play a big part in reducing delirium.

Walker Methodist's Delirium Transitional Care

The Health Center at Walker Methodist offers Transitional Care. Minneapolis-based and conveniently located, the Health Center provides transitional memory care for temporary changes in mental status that may or may not be long term. This unique program helps to continually ease the burdens of dementia and allows us to help individuals live fully each and every day. This care specialty is designed to bring happiness and life to Residents who may feel lost, as well as give comfort to the families of our Residents. I'll leave you with this heartfelt quote from one of our Resident's loved ones...

Martha states, "My mother was a patient in the Alzheimer rehab at Walker Methodist Health Center. She passed away shortly after being discharged in the Fall 2012. I often think of your wonderful staff; especially your O.T. & P. T. Without their hard work, she would have never returned home, and although we only had her home for a few months, it would not have been possible had she gone anywhere else. I can say this with unbiased sincerity because she was initially sent to a rehab center that was quite beautiful, but not appropriate for her level of care. I toured your facility before she was discharged, and I knew it would be perfect.

I honestly never worried about her when I was not there. You are true pioneers in rehabilitating patients with memory issues, and I will never forget the wonderful therapists who worked with her. If anybody reads this that is looking for memory care, I highly encourage you to tour Walker Methodist, and don't be swayed by another facility because it may be more aesthetically pleasing. It is the least important factor to consider when deciding where your loved ones will go after discharge from the hospital."

Receive personalized care designed to help you maintain maximum independence  and achieve your goals. Request Transitional Care/Rehab

Topics: Health & Well-Being

Anne Tabat

Written by Anne Tabat

Anne joined the Walker Methodist family in March 2013. She has a B.A. in History and Economics from the University of Illinois, and a M.A. in Advertising from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Anne has traveled a long and exciting path to Walker Methodist. Her marketing background and her experience with her 90 year old mother over the last 5 years was essentially an immersion program in skilled nursing and senior living communities for Anne. As the Transitions and Community Relations Manager, Anne would describe her job as “talking and making friends” – relationship building and community relations. Her job responsibilities are essentially to inform and educate people about the quality of care and unique services offered at the Health Center. She is best known professionally for talking. A lot of talking. She believes the best part of her job is meeting new people and being exposed to new ideas constantly. She loves learning new things and her job offers that on a daily basis. Without hesitation, the Music & Memory program is what she is most passionate about professionally. She also loves Dancing with Parkinson’s and all integrative care – Healing Touch, aromatherapy, meditation, etc. She is particularly interested in research and studies related to finding a cure for brain disorders. When not at the Health Center, you can likely find Anne baking, gardening, reading poetry, watching TED talks, and swimming. She likes to spend as much time outside as possible in the summer and just the opposite in the winter. She’s married to an electrical engineer and has three interesting and insightful daughters. In her free time, she enjoys working with kids and volunteering as a DECA judge.

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