Who can provide patient history when delirium is suspected?

Updated: Apr 25, 2019
  • Author: Kannayiram Alagiakrishnan, MD, MBBS, MPH, MHA; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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The diagnosis of delirium is clinical. No laboratory test can diagnose delirium. Obtaining a thorough history is essential.

Because delirious patients often are confused and unable to provide accurate information, getting a detailed history from family, caregivers, and nursing staff is particularly important. Nursing notes can be very helpful for documentation of episodes of disorientation, abnormal behavior, and hallucinations. Learning to record accurate and specific findings in mental status as well as the particular time the finding was observed is imperative for the staff. Staff should not just report "he was confused."

Delirium always should be suspected when (a new onset) or an acute or subacute deterioration in behavior, cognition, or function occurs, especially in patients who are elderly, demented, or depressed.

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