Don’t go there – It’s not a nice place: Older adults’ experiences of delirium [2018]

Delirium is a common neuropsychiatric disorder that causes fluctuations in consciousness and attention, impairments in cognitive functioning and information processing, and changes in how individuals perceive what is going on around them. Delirium is associated with increased mortality, ongoing impairment in cognitive functioning, and a high possibility of discharge to residential care. The experience of delirium may be distressing for the patient and their family. Despite the frequency of delirium in hospitalized elderly patients, there is a dearth of literature that examines their experience of this phenomenon, and how it affects individuals as they continue their lives. This study uses descriptive qualitative methodology to explore the question: ‘What is the experience of delirium for older adults during hospitalisation?’ Data were collected from older adults who had received hospital care in a tertiary general hospital setting. Seven participants were recruited between January and June 2017. Semi‐structured individual interviews were used to gather data which was analysed using content analysis. Four themes were identified. These were sense of confusion, disrupted sense of autonomy, perceptual disturbances, and emotional response. Participants exercised agency in the way they responded to these experiences. The study highlighted the need for delirium prevention, and education to improve nurses’ recognition, understanding, and management of delirium. In particular, there is a need for nurses to attend to the psychological and emotional experience of delirium.

Elizabeth Weir RN, MN Anthony J. O’Brien RN, PhD, FNZCMHN
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 13 December 2018