Confusion and dementia due to hospitalization. It happens quite often, especially to the elderly. A long stay in Intensive Care also means that people no longer know where they are. Confusion and dementia during hospitalization and intensive care are therefore common, but no less unpleasant. Here are the facts at a glance. And why some people are more susceptible to confusion and dementia when hospitalized or admitted to intensive care.
Elderly people often deteriorate mentally in hospital
Elderly people who have to go to hospital for treatment or surgery sometimes leave mentally worse than when they went there. They see things that are not there, are confused or forgetful and even develop dementia.
Delirium – a confused state
Elderly people who have a condition that requires immediate treatment in hospital are much more likely to experience memory and concentration disorders and decline in their mental abilities after hospital admission. Almost a third of that group of people aged 65 and older have delirium upon admission or during admission. This is a condition in which they are very confused and usually lasts up to 10 days. Sometimes such a situation lasts much longer (up to months). A study from the US also showed that elderly people who end up in hospital are 40 percent more likely to develop dementia than people who simply stay at home.
Delirium: the cause
Delirium is often caused by a number of things.
- It has been shown that elderly people who are admitted often have an infection. The substances that are pumped around in the blood make people more likely to become confused.
- In addition, elderly people often have chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes. These diseases cause poorer functioning of organs, such as the heart and kidneys. These chronic diseases also damage the brain. For example, many people (seen or unseen) develop a heart attack or TIA. These cause scarring on the brain. Research has shown that these scars can cause even more damage more quickly.
- Delirium could also be a protective response of the brain. Unjustified, because people do not benefit from it, but the brain does what it can to protect that part of the human body.
Demented leaves the hospital again
Bystanders often say that people went into the hospital in good health and came out demented or confused. In most cases, the person in question already had dementia beforehand, but it was not perceived as such. In a normal environment it is less noticeable if someone says something a number of times or no longer remembers where the sugar is. Moreover, those shortcomings are then taken care of by those they know, because they know the person in question inside and out. In a hospital it is very different. Moreover, if someone is taken out of their familiar environment, issues of confusion become much more noticeable. In addition, the turbulent situation of a hospital itself can make people very confused. Research has already shown that the Intensive Care department is the leader in this regard. The constant transfer of people in serious situations, the constantly beeping equipment, the lights that never go out and the constant presence of staff makes people very confused.
The consequences of delirium are often longer lasting than anticipated. Once the person in question is back home, this can continue for months or even years. People no longer know how much money to give at a cash register, they no longer want to read, they can no longer remember things or they mix up names. Sometimes it never goes away at all.
Treatment of confusion and delirium in the hospital
People who suffer from delirium or are very confused are often given antipsychotics. That often helps, but the cause must also be examined. If it comes from an infection that is poisoning the body, the cause must be treated and not just the symptoms.
Confusion due to hospital admissions
The confusion caused by hospital admissions is caused by:
- Physical infection
- Incorrect use of medication
- ICU stay
- Previous damage to the brain