Close Up Of Senior Woman With String Tied Around Finger As Reminder

Dementia and delirium have similar symptoms that are often misinterpreted.

While dementia takes the spotlight in diagnoses for older adults struggling with confusion, forgetfulness, and disorientation, there’s another condition that is widely prevalent, produces similar symptoms, and most importantly, is curable: delirium. In fact, as many as ¾ of seniors experience delirium following a surgical procedure or infection, and correct diagnosis is crucial to ensure correct treatment.

One of the biggest differentiators in delirium is its sudden onset, and its propensity to cause symptoms that wax and wane throughout the day, as opposed to dementia’s slow, steady, ongoing and somewhat predictable progression. For instance, someone with delirium may struggle to recognize or recall a familiar face, become confused in his or her surroundings, hallucinate, or experience difficulty with communicating – yet later in the day, recover full functionality of these abilities.

There are certain specific types of delirium, however, with distinct symptoms. In hyperactive delirium, the person will often display restlessness, agitation, and hyperactivity; while in hypoactive delirium, the opposite is true, showing drowsiness/lethargy, inactivity, and a decreased response time – symptoms that are often mistaken for dementia or depression.

Delirium is brought on by infections and fever, certain medications, or hospital procedures, and with proper treatment, can be reversed within a matter of weeks. If misdiagnosed as dementia and left untreated, however, functionality will likely continue to decrease, often leading to the onset of dementia – making it crucial for family members to closely monitor the individual’s condition to ensure a correct diagnosis and treatment plan is in place.

Below are some steps seniors can take to reduce their risk for developing delirium:

  • Stay active, both physically and mentally. Make time for at least 10 – 20 minutes of exercise three times a week, and incorporate mind-stimulating activities such as puzzles, reading, conversations, and music.
  • Ensure adequate hydration and proper nutrition. If the individual’s appetite is affected, it can be helpful for him or her to share meals in a social setting with a friend, relative or professional caregiver.
  • Wear glasses and hearing aids as needed.
  • Get plenty of sleep by staying active during the day, limiting naps as well as caffeine. End each day with a calming activity, such as listening to quiet music or reading.

For specialized care assistance for those with dementia or delirium, or any other chronic condition, contact the leading Atlanta dementia care team at Atlanta Home Care Partners by calling (404) 228-0103 any time. Please see our full service area.