Delirium in older people: assessment and management

by Dr Santosh B. Bangar, Dr Abhishek Shastri and Dr John Holmes


Last updated: July 2019


Delirium is one of the oldest disorders known to medicine. It is an extremely common condition, particularly in general hospitals, occurring in up to 50% of older hospital inpatients, many of whom have pre-existing dementia.


Delirium is independently associated with increased length of hospital stay, morbidity and mortality. Despite its clinical implications delirium is often not detected or is misdiagnosed as dementia or other mental health conditions such as depression.

Delirium as an entity has been victim to its unique position at the mind-body interface and occurrence across multiple disciplines, meaning that no one specialty recognises delirium as its primary responsibility. However, the outcome of delirium can be significantly improved by early identification of risk factors, a systematic approach to management and education of nursing staff and professional carers.


Delirium can affect all ages but is most common and potentially most serious in old age. In this module we will specifically focus on delirium in older people, covering its prevalence, clinical features, risk factors and effective management.


Start the module


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Related Advances articles

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This module is a joint commission with the following article published in BJPsych Advances:


O’Connell H, Kennelly SP, Cullen W, et al (2014) Managing delirium in everyday practice: towards cognitive-friendly hospitals. BJPsych Advances, 20: 380–389. [abstract]


Other related Advances articles


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