Delirium occurs in up to 80% of patients admitted to an intensive care unit. Nonpharmacologic delirium-prevention strategies, which are commonly used by the bedside nurse, have reduced the incidence and duration of delirium in patients in the intensive care unit. With increasing demands on the nurse, strategies such as including the patient’s family in delirium prevention activities should be investigated. OBJECTIVE To determine opinions and willingness of health care providers to involve patients’ families in nonpharmacologic delirium-prevention activities in the intensive care unit, and of patients’ families to be involved.


Two surveys, one for intensive care unit nurses and physicians and one for patients’ families, were developed and administered. The provider survey focused on current delirium-prevention practices and opinions about family involvement. The family survey concentrated on barriers and willingness to participate in prevention activities.


Sixty nurses and 58 physicians completed the survey. Most physicians (93%) and all nurses believed families could assist with delirium prevention. Only 50% reported speaking with family members about delirium and delirium prevention. The family survey was completed by 60 family members; 38% reported a provider spoke with them about delirium. Family members reported high levels of comfort in participating in delirium-prevention activities.


Health care providers and family members are supportive of the latter performing delirium-prevention activities. Family of patients in the intensive care unit may work collaboratively with nurses to reduce the incidence and duration of delirium in these patients.

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