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Avoid Confusion in the Hospital - Ten Tips

Do you have an elderly relative in the hospital?

By taking these ten steps, you may be able to reduce the risk of delirium:

  1. Bring to the hospital a complete list of all medications (with their dosages), as well as over-the-counter medicines. It may help to bring the medication bottles as well.

  2. Prepare a "medical information sheet" listing all allergies, names and phone numbers of physicians, the name of the patient's usual pharmacy and all known medical conditions. Also, be sure all pertinent medical records have been forwarded to the doctors who will be caring for the patient.

  3. Bring glasses, hearing aids (with fresh batteries), and dentures to the hospital. Older persons do better if they can see, hear and eat.

  4. Bring in a few familiar objects from home. Things such as family photos, a favorite comforter or blanket for the bed, rosary beads, a beloved book and relaxation tapes can be quite comforting.

  5. Help orient the patient throughout the day. Speak in a calm, reassuring tone of voice and tell the patient where he is and why he is there.

  6. When giving instructions, state one fact or simple task at a time. Do not overwhelm or over stimulate the patient.

  7. Massage can be soothing for some patients.

  8. Stay with the hospitalized patient as much as possible. During an acute episode of delirium, relatives should try to arrange shifts so someone can be present around the clock.

  9. If you detect new signs that could indicate delirium -- confusion, memory problems, personality changes -- it is important to discuss these with the nurses or physicians as soon as you can. Family members are often the first to notice subtle changes.

  10. Find out more about delirium. The American Psychiatric Association's "Patient and Family Guide to Understanding and Identifying Delirium" is available on line.

Adapted from, May 02, 2000