WHAT IS ELDERLY CONFUSION?
Elderly confusion is a common condition, affecting many people as they age in some form or another. Confused people act in ways that can be challenging for busy caregivers. They may resist bathing, eating, and toileting. They may sleep during the day and wander during the night. They may become agitated and irritable.
Elderly confusion is a disturbed mental state. It can last for only a short period of time or it can be permanent. There are two main types of confusion.
Confusion that lasts for a short time. It usually begins fairly quickly and ends when the cause of the confusion is removed. Although delirium often lasts less than five days, it may take several weeks for behavior to completely return to normal. Fourteen to 56% of elderly hospitalized patients experience delirium.
Confusion that lasts for a long time. It usually cannot be cured. The confusion generally worsens as time passes.
WHAT CAUSES ELDERLY CONFUSION?
People who are 65 years or older are more likely to develop elderly confusion. Those who are in hospitals and those with other types of mental disorders are more at risk. Using physical restraints on people can also increase the risk of confusion.
Medications are the most common cause of delirium, or short-term confusion. Some of the other possible causes of short-term confusion are:
• Infections, illnesses, and injuries
• Strange surroundings, (experienced, for example, after being admitted to a hospital)
• Loss of sleep
• Poor nutrition and not enough fluids
• Lack of stimulation, (experienced, for example, when patients are immobilized or have poor vision)
• Too much stimulation, including noisy surroundings
• Acute stress, (experienced, for example, after the loss of spouse or a change in living environment)
• A history of abuse of alcohol or drugs
Short-term confusion usually stops when the cause is removed or fixed.