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Delirium is a medical emergency. It is an acute episode of confusion which can last for hours or months and is caused by reversible factors, most commonly physical illness.

In high risk patients, delirium can be caused by infection, acute illness, pain, changes in medication and hip fractures. Patients at highest risk are those who have cognitive impairments, are in intensive care or at the end of life.


Changed behaviour   Nature of symptoms
Cognitive function Worsened concentration, slow responses, new or increasing confusion.
Perception Visual or auditory hallucinations.
Physical function Reduced mobility, reduced movement, restlessness, agitation, changes in appetite, sleep disturbance.
Social behaviour Lack of co-operation with reasonable requests, withdrawal, alterations in communication, mood and/or attitude. 


From NICE delirium guidance CG103       

Delirium is treated by identifying and managing the underlying cause, so escalate your concerns immediately to a senior member of staff. For further information search ‘RCN Don’t Discount Delirium.’