Emergency: Why Am I Here?

Elderly with dementia and delirium who are admitted to emergency rooms often don't know why they are there

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When admitted to a hospital emergency department, elderly patients who suffer from dementia and delirium often do not understand why they are there. They also tend to not understand ER discharge instructions.

In order to see how dementia and delirium affects patients' comprehension of their situation when they are in an emergency room, a team of researchers conducted two sets of interviews. After 202 patient interviews, the researchers found that individuals with delirium superimposed on dementia (DSD) were less likely than patients without DSD to know why they were in a hospital emergency room.

A second series of 115 patient interviews showed that patients with delirium superimposed on dementia (DSD) were much less likely than patients without DSD to understand emergency department discharge and follow-up instructions.

Dementia is a term that refers to memory loss and other mental disabilities caused by physical changes in the brain. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Other dementias include Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and vascular dementia among others.

Delirium refers to the episodes of confusion and rapid changes in brain function that are a product of mental illnesses such as dementias.

These findings, which appear in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, show that emergency departments should focus on identifying patients with dementia and delirium.

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Review Date: 
January 31, 2011
Last Updated:
February 1, 2011