Delirium is a commonly occurring cognitive disorder in seriously ill patients that is characterized by an acutely changing or fluctuating mental status. It is thought to be caused by an imbalance of the neurotransmitters dopamine, acetylcholine, and gamma aminobutyric acid.

The condition is underdiagnosed in 60% of critical care patients and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Significant risk factors for the occurrence of delirium that nurses can identify at the time of admission include vision impairment, severe illness, dehydration, and preexisting cognitive impairments.

  • Incorporate delirium assessment into your regular assessment and monitor frequently for at-risk patients.

  • Limit the use of restraints.

  • Allow family to visit, as the presence and reassurance of familiar people may help calm the patient.

  • Provide comfort, reassurance, and a calm environment. Reorient the patient as often as needed. Ask the family to provide...

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