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Distinguishing the Difference Between Delirium and Dementia

Distinguishing the Difference Between Delirium and Dementia

ElderCare at HomeAlthough delirium and dementia share symptoms, it is very important to distinguish the differences between the two.

Dementia develops gradually. Delirium on the other hand, is am acute state of confusion.  It is often brought on by a metabolic event; anesthesia, for example, or a change in the blood levels of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.  If treated early, delirium is usually reversible. Dementia is not.

Persons with dementia can also suffer from delirium. In fact, one condition actually aggravates the other.  The major symptoms of delirium are shown below.

Symptoms of Delirium
  • Acute change in mental status (onset of confusion, less of faculties)
  • Fluctuating course
  • Attention disturbance (unable to stay focused on a topic or idea)
  • Memory disturbance
  • Orientation disturbance (does not know time, place, or person)
  • Perceptual disturbance (does not see, hear, or interpret things correctly)
  • Disorganized or incoherent thinking (has strange ideas, may be paranoid, suspicious)
  • Sleep disturbance (can’t fall asleep)
  • Consciousness disturbance (can’t stay awake)
  • Speech disturbance
  • Psychomotor activity disturbance (starts to get agitated and moves around)