Hospital-acquired delirium is a common and dangerous condition that often goes unnoticed and untreated, an oversight that experts in geriatric medicine say is costing the health care system untold millions of dollars.
“Delirium is often under-recognized and underdiagnosed,” says Dr. Roger Wong, president of the Canadian Geriatrics Society. “Many patients, when they come to a hospital, they enter through the emergency department. That is their portal of entry. That is their first stop. The emergency room is a very busy place with a high turnover. It’s not an ideal place for recognizing, let alone treating, delirium.”
The condition, a temporary but severe form of mental impairment that can lead to longer hospital stays and negative long-term outcomes, is commonly acquired by elderly patients in acute care settings. Up to a third of patients 70 years old and above experience delirium, and the rate is much higher for those in intensive