Dealing with delirium

Over the last week, my mother suddenly started to see things that aren’t real (hallucinate). She is distressed, refusing to eat and drink, and has become restless. She has changed so much in a short space of time. What is happening?

Any sudden deterioration or change in someone’s behaviour or functioning, is likely to be caused by an acute physical illness of their body or brain. If you notice a change to the person’s usual behaviour over the course of hours or days, this is known as a ‘Delirium’.

Symptoms can vary. They include visual hallucinations, restlessness, increased confusion, aggressiveness, agitation, change in walking or moving. Or the person may become unusually withdrawn, sleepy or quiet.

The main thing to look out for is a ‘sudden’ change in how they usually are. Causes can include infection, dehydration, underlying disease and constipation. Your mother needs to see a GP or a medical professional straight away.

Delirium needs urgent medical attention, and it is seen as a medical emergency. It is a common condition, but must be treated in a timely way by treating the acute physical illness which if an infection, could be by antibiotics.