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.

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