Delirium - Sudden Confusion in the Elderly
Information for Veterans, Families & Caregivers
- What is Delirium?
- When is Sudden Confusion an Emergency?
- What Should I Do?
- Can Delirium be Prevented?
- For VA Health Care Professionals
- Return to: Geriatric Care
What is Delirium?
Delirium - Sudden Confusion or Change in Behavior
For elderly adults who have dementia, feeling confused may be expected. But when the confusion comes on suddenly, or the older adult become difficult to arouse, this could be a condition called delirium. This type of sudden confusion may be the first sign that the person has another illness and needs medical help right away.
One myth we often hear about aging is that it’s not unusual to be confused when you’re old. It’s true that we can expect many changes as part of normal aging. But a sudden change in cognitive function—or the way we think and process information—is not one of them.
Even if there has simply been a change in the elder’s thinking or behavior, most caregivers and family members will know that something is not right. It’s important to contact a doctor as soon as possible so that he or she can find the cause of the delirium and treat the underlying problem.
The questions and answers in this section will help you learn more about how to recognize when sudden confusions is an emergency and what you can do about it.