Caregiver Resources - Delirium

Delirium is a common and serious occurrence in older adults (1). Characterized by a severe change in an individual’s thought processing, delirium causes confusion and a lessened awareness of time or place (1)(2). It occurs suddenly and most often after an illness or stressful event (1). It can also be caused by changes in medication, untreated pain, infection or recent surgery (2).

Signs of delirium can include:

  • being unable to stay focused,
  • being easily distracted from conversation,
  • hearing voices or seeing things,
  • talking nonsense or rambling,
  • being quieter or slower than usual (2).

If any of these signs appear, tell your health care team. Before a visit with a health care provider, prepare a description of any behavioral changes seen in the person who may be experiencing delirium. 


(1)  Health in Aging. (2017). Delirium - Unique to older adults. Retrieved from

(2)  Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (CCSMH). (2016). National guidelines for seniors’ mental health: The assessment and treatment of delirium. Retrieved from