Hallucinations in hospital are risk to elderly

by MichelleR on July 23, 2010

I wanted to post this interesting piece on hallucinations as I was surprised to learn about what can occur while being in the hospital. As we age we become more vulnerable then one thinks about.

Hallucinations while in the hospital are disproportionately affecting older people, often causing longer hospital stays and even leading to death.

Hospital delirium affects about one-third of patients over 70, and a greater percentage of intensive care or post-surgical patients, the American Geriatrics Society estimates. While the cause is unclear, there are many apparent triggers, according to an Ocala.com article. These include infections, surgery, pneumonia and procedures like catheter insertions, all of which can spur anxiety in frail, vulnerable patients. Some medications also seem associated with delirium.

While doctors once dismissed delirium as a “reversible transient phenomenon,” new research shows significant negative effects. Delirium can hinder recovery from patients’ initial conditions, extending hospital stays. It can delay scheduled procedures like surgery. Patients often are placed in nursing homes or rehabilitation centers, and older delirium patients are more likely to develop dementia later, the article notes.

“It’s terrible, more dangerous than a fall,” said Dr. Malaz A. Boustani, a professor at the Indiana University Center for Aging Research. He found that elderly patients experiencing delirium were hospitalized six days longer and placed in nursing homes 75 percent of the time. Nearly one-tenth died within a month. Experts say delirium can contribute to death by weakening patients or by leading to complications like pneumonia or blood clots.

Delirium triggers can include sleep interrupted for tests, isolation, changing rooms, being without eyeglasses or dentures, and some medications. 

Some hospitals are developing delirium-prevention programs that adjust schedules, light and noise to help patients sleep, ensure that patients have their eyeglasses and hearing aids, and has them walk, exercise and do cognitive activities like word games.

What do you think?

Previous post:

Next post: