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HomeDeliriumWhat to look for?
What to look for?

Symptoms vary for individual patients and they may have more than one when they are experiencing a delirium.


People with a delirium may:

  • be different from their usual selves
  • be easily distracted and unable to pay attention
  • appear confused and forgetful
  • be unsure of the time of day or where they are
  • be very agitated, or quiet, withdrawn and sleepy or they may have a combination of all
  • stay awake at night and be drowsy during the day
  • see things that are not there, but seem very real to them
  • feel fearful, upset, irritable, angry or sad


Please notify staff if you notice any of these symptoms in your friend or relative.


Audrey Curtis's Experience with Delirium




Frequently asked questions

 How does delirium start?

​The symptoms of delirium occur very quickly usually over a couple of hours or days. The behaviour associated with these symptoms can change over the day.

Delirium is sometimes mistaken for dementia in older people, so it is important for relatives and friends to notify nursing and medical staff if they notice a sudden change in a family members behaviour.

It is important to note there is no blood test available for delirium.

 How common is delirium?

​Delirium is not limited to older people and it can occur at any age however approximately one fifth of people aged 65 years and older admitted to hospital will experience delirium at some stage of their care.

 How long does delirium last?

​Delirium usually only lasts for a few days, however sometimes it will continue for weeks or even months.

Delirium can result in a longer stay in hospital than expected and if it is not resolved quickly it may also lead to increased risk of falling and pressure injuries.

 How is delirium treated?

​There is no specific medication that will resolve a delirium and sometimes it can be an interaction with medications that cause the delirium to start.


Staff will do a thorough assessment. Finding and treating the cause of the delirium is the most effective way to resolve it. Once the cause is being treated, the delirium will begin to resolve within days.

 Could this happen again?

​While it is not guaranteed to happen again, people who have experienced a delirium while in hospital, do have a greater risk of experiencing a delirium again.