How to Tell if It’s Delirium or Dementia

How to Tell if It’s Delirium or Dementia

Learn whether a senior may be experiencing delirium or dementia, and how you can help.

Although dementia takes center stage in diagnoses for older individuals who are struggling with confusion, memory lapses, and disorientation, there’s another condition that is also common, producing similar symptoms, and most importantly, can be cured: delirium. In fact, as many as ¾ of older adults experience delirium after a surgical procedure or infection, and proper diagnosis is crucial to ensure proper treatment. So how can you tell if it’s delirium or dementia impacting someone you love?

One of the biggest differentiators in delirium is that it arises quite suddenly. It also has a tendency to cause symptoms that come and go throughout the day, as opposed to dementia’s slow, steady, ongoing, and rather predictable progression. For example, a person with delirium may struggle to recognize or remember a familiar face, become confused in their surroundings, have hallucinations, or experience difficulty with communicating – but later in the day, they recover full functionality of these abilities. 

There are particular types of delirium, however, with distinct symptoms. In hyperactive delirium, the individual will often become restless, agitated, and hyperactive; while in hypoactive delirium, the opposite is true, as the person displays drowsiness/lethargy, inactivity, and a reduced response time – symptoms that are often mistaken for depression or dementia.

Delirium is brought about by infections and fever, certain types of medications, or hospital procedures, and with correct treatment, can be reversed in just a matter of weeks. If misdiagnosed as dementia and left untreated, however, functionality is likely to continue to decline, often leading to the onset of dementia – making it vitally important for family members to closely monitor the condition of a senior with these types of symptoms to ensure a correct diagnosis and treatment plan is in place.

There are several steps older adults can take to lower their risk of developing delirium, including:

  • Remaining active, both physically and mentally, by engaging in at least 10 – 20 minutes of exercise three times a week, and spending time on mind-stimulating activities such as puzzles, reading, conversations, and music
  • Getting sufficient hydration and proper nutrition (if the senior’s appetite is impacted, it can be helpful for them to share meals with a friend, family member, or professional caregiver)
  • Wearing eyeglasses and hearing aids when needed
  • Getting plenty of sleep by staying active during the day, limiting naps and also caffeine, and ending each day with a soothing activity such as listening to quiet music or reading

For specialized care assistance for someone with dementia or delirium, or any other chronic health condition, contact our skilled caregiving team. We can help in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Serving as a companion for enhanced socialization
  • Providing transportation wherever and whenever a senior would like to go
  • Preparing healthy, delicious meals
  • Assisting with personal care needs, such as baths/showers and getting dressed
  • Running errands like grocery shopping
  • And much more

As the leading provider of dementia care in Novato and the surrounding areas, we’re here with the customized in-home care services seniors need to stay healthy and well – both physically and emotionally. Call us at (866) 940-4343 to find out more about how we can help.

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Want to find out more about our senior care in California and how it can improve safety, comfort, and independence at home? Contact us at (866) 940-4343 to request a free in-home consultation to learn more about our customized care solutions in Novato, Pleasanton, Santa Rosa, Napa, Sonoma, and the surrounding areas.

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