Jan 5, 2016

Delirium or Dementia

Delirium, which occurs suddenly, is not the same as dementia, although individuals with dementia are more susceptible to developing delirium during hospitalizations or from infections.


By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Delirium, defined as a state of mental confusion, occurs in more than half of all hospitalized older adults who have dementia.


Delirium causes severe confusion and rapid changes in brain function that occur with physical or mental illness.




Delirium usually causes a serious disturbance in a person's mental abilities that results in a decreased awareness of one's environment and confused thinking.

The onset of delirium is usually sudden.


  • Delirium results in an alteration in mental status and brain failure in a vulnerable individual, often an older adults.
  • Delirium can be caused by surgery, medications, urinary tract infection, pneumonia, lack of sleep, excessive light, noise or pain.

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Symptoms of Delirium

  • Reduced awareness of the environment that may result in an inability to stay focused on a topic, or wandering attention. Also includes changes in alertness which can happen from day to night.
  • Cognitive Impairment or poor thinking skills. This can include the inability to think or behave with purpose, rambling or nonsensical speech, disorientation (like not knowing where one is), and confusion about time and place.
  • Behavior changes like seeing things that don't exist, extreme changes in emotion or personality (like anger, agitation, anxiety, or apathy).

Articles Related to Delirium


Delirium and Urinary Tract Infection

Dementia or Delirium - Which one is it?

Methods of Relieving Delirium In Dementia Patients

Delirium is a Strong Risk Factor for Dementia

Hospitals Stays Can Cause Delirium Worsen Alzheimer's

Topic - Memory Care

While delirium usually comes on suddenly, dementia is the result of a progressive decline in memory and thinking skills that is caused by the death of brain cells

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Dementia affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, behavior, and a person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.

Dementia is a word that describes symptoms of the gradual deterioration of mental functioning that cannot be explained by normal aging.

Symptoms of dementia can include:

  • Memory loss 
  • Difficulty communicating 
  • Difficulty with complex tasks 
  • Difficulty with planning and organizing 
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor functions 
  • Problems with disorientation, such as getting lost Personality changes 
  • Inability to reason 
  • Inappropriate behavior 
  • Paranoia 
  • Agitation 
  • Hallucinations

Related Articles

6 Reasons Why You Might Have to Put Someone with Dementia in a Memory Care Facility or Nursing Home

Dying from Dementia, Suffering Often Unnecessary

9 Types of Dementia

Test Your Memory for Dementia in 15 Minutes (SAGE)

Death by Complications from Alzheimer's, What does this mean?

Topic - Coping with Dementia

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Originally published in the Alzheimer's Reading Room
https://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2013/06/delirium-versus-dementia.html